Shell’s Onshore Divestment: Let the Purchaser Beware

Since final yr, Royal Dutch Shell has been within the information with the plan to unload its onshore oilfields in Nigeria to give attention to deep offshore exploration and manufacturing, citing a number of operational dangers it claimed had turn into incompatible with its future plans. Nevertheless, there are issues in some quarters that the oil main could also be attempting to keep away from legal responsibility because it issues the atmosphere and the host communities. This may increasingly additionally push the would-be consumers, unaware of the potential landmines within the deal into avoidable enterprise dangers, writes Peter Uzoho

Translated caveat emptor in Latin, the phrase “let the customer beware”, within the regulation of business transactions, is a precept that the customer purchases at his personal danger within the absence of an specific guarantee in a contract. Final week, the information of Royal Dutch Shell inserting extra of its onshore oil property in Nigeria on sale dominated the headlines, simply because it had finished prior to now.

THISDAY completely reported final Friday that at the very least 5 Nigerian oil and gasoline corporations had been making ready to submit their respective bids for the acquisition of the property this month. The deal, in keeping with business and banking sources concerned within the transaction course of, was estimated to fetch as much as $3 billion, being the worth of the property.

Some impartial Nigerian oil and gasoline corporations together with Seplat Vitality Plc, Sahara Group, Famfa Oil, Troilus Investments Restricted and Niger Delta Exploration and Manufacturing (NDEP) have excitedly indicated curiosity to buy the property.

There are indications that these enterprise issues may very well be oblivious of the hazards ready for them after they buy the property with out warning and perform due diligence. Curiously, no worldwide oil corporations are anticipated to participate within the bidding course of at this preliminary level and bids are due by January 31.


Shell, final yr began discussions with the federal authorities about promoting its stake within the onshore fields, the place it had been energetic for the reason that Thirties, as a part of a worldwide drive to cut back its carbon emissions. The Anglo-Dutch firm has stakes in 19 Oil Mining Leases (OMLs) in Nigeria’s onshore oil and gasoline three way partnership – Shell Petroleum Growth Firm (SPDC), which the business and banking sources, significantly Wooden MacKenzie, a number one world oil and gasoline consulting agency, had stated had been valued at between $2 billion to $3 billion.

Shell operates SPDC and holds a 30 per cent stake within the enterprise, Nigerian Nationwide Petroleum Firm (NNPC) Restricted holds 55 per cent, TotalEnergies has 10 per cent and ENI has 5 per cent.

WoodMac had listed the property up on the market as OML 11, OML 20, OML 21 (Assa North), OML 22 (Enwhe), OML 23 (Soku), OML 25, OML 27, OML 28 (Gbaran-Ubie), OML 31, OML 32, OML 33, OML 35, OML 36, OMLs 43 and 45 (Forcados-Yokri), OML 46, OMLs 74 & 77 and OML 79.

Giving a background to the corporate’s choice to divest from the amenities, MacKenzie had acknowledged that emissions from Shell’s property within the onshore and shallow water Delta are among the many highest in its world portfolio.

The Anglo-Dutch oil main has additionally struggled for years with spills within the Niger Delta as a consequence of pipeline theft and sabotage in addition to operational points, resulting in expensive repairs and high-profile lawsuits
In Might final yr, Shell’s Chief Government Officer, Mr Ben van Beurden, had declared on the firm’s annual common assembly that Shell might now not afford to be uncovered to the chance of theft and sabotage in its Nigerian operations.

NNPC might additionally select to train its proper to pre-empt any sale to a 3rd firm, the sources stated.

Sources stated it was unclear whether or not potential bidders might elevate adequate funds as many worldwide banks and traders have turn into cautious about oil and gasoline property in Nigeria as a consequence of issues about environmental points and corruption.

Some African and Asian banks, nonetheless, had been nonetheless keen to finance fossil gas operations within the area, they stated.

Moreover, Troilus has employed Nigeria-focused Africa Bridge Capital Administration to boost as much as $3 billion for the property, in keeping with sources and paperwork.

The sources stated any purchaser of Shell’s property would additionally want to indicate it could take care of future injury to the oil infrastructure which has ravaged Nigeria’s Delta in recent times.


Over the course of the final 60 years when offshore investments had been largely unviable, the actions of oil corporations, together with Shell, have devastated the ecosystems of the host communities the place they function.

Nevertheless, the considering is that they’re now dashing to dump poisonous property to unsuspecting native traders who may be too excited to amass producing oil blocks with out correctly finishing up the related due diligence required to make such investments viable in the long run.

A living proof is the latest huge oil spill from Aiteo Jap Exploration and Manufacturing Firm (AEEPC) Restricted’s Nembe facility which they procured in an apparently faulty state from Shell not too way back. In 2014, Aiteo bid for and bought Shell’s OML 29 and the Nembe Creek Trunk Line for $2.7 billion.

With its acquisition of Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s 30 per cent stake in addition to Complete SA of France and Eni of Italy’s minority stake in OML 29 and the Nembe Creek Trunk Line, Aiteo holds the controlling 45 per cent stake in each property, for which it paid $569 million for Complete SA’s stake.

OML 29 contains Nembe, Santa Barbara and Okoraba oil fields, with a mixed manufacturing, averaged round 43,000 barrels per day of oil equal in 2014.

Nevertheless, specialists imagine that Aiteo purchased the asset at an exorbitant worth and with out contemplating the dangers it was going to face on them, therefore the oil spill catastrophe that took it unaware.

In keeping with an oil and gasoline skilled and Managing Director of ARISE NEWS CHANNEL, Ms Ijeoma Nwogwugwu, Nigeria’s weak regulatory atmosphere and incapability of the authorities to strengthen environmental and petroleum legal guidelines for the deactivation of deserted wells and ageing oil amenities haven’t helped issues.

She stated, because of this, oil multinationals that need to keep away from spending a number of tens of millions of {dollars} on decommissioning, have taken benefit of the loopholes by promoting their oil property, together with getting older and rusting infrastructure, to native oil corporations.”

“Because the late 2000s, Shell, Chevron and ConocoPhillips have bought their stakes in about 20 to 25 oil blocks to native oil operators at ridiculously exorbitant costs.

“All of the acquisitions had been leveraged buyouts that left a number of Nigerian banks with huge exposures to the oil and gasoline sector. Lots of the loans are but to be repaid thus far and in a number of situations contributed to a spike in non-performing loans and impairment prices on the books of the banks,” Nwogwugwu had acknowledged in a latest article.

Added to that, within the gentle of the N800 billion judgment of the Federal Excessive Courtroom Owerri Division delivered on November 27, 2020, in opposition to Shell in favour of the Egbalor Eleme Neighborhood of Rivers State, would these property not turn into one other poisonous acquisition?

Will, it isn’t simply offloading liabilities on hapless native traders with semi-informed offshore monetary companions? Shell is within the means of promoting off $3 billion value of its onshore property in Nigeria in a strategic push to maneuver additional offshore and deepwater the place they are going to have little or no interactions with host communities
The N800 billion judgment in opposition to SPDC and its offshore guardian corporations within the Hague and the UK ought to be an enormous eye-opener that the Nigerian courts are now not timid in figuring out environmental claims.

The time to warning would-be traders concerning the toxicity of those Shell’s property is now. And for these investments to be viable, Seplat Vitality, Sahara Group, Famfa Oil, NDEP, Troilus Investments Restricted and different Nigerian independents which can be bidding for these property should perform detailed due diligence.

They have to insert clauses within the acquisition agreements, which absolves the brand new traders of legal responsibility within the occasion that claims come up from faulty or over-aged pipelines and manufacturing property, in any other case they are going to be buying liabilities moderately than property.



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