High Development Costs Keep Many Marginal Fields in Nigeria Dormant

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Several marginal oil fields in Nigeria remain undeveloped years after being awarded to companies due to the challenges posed by high development costs. Each field reportedly requires over $100 million for development up to the production stage. Factors contributing to these high costs include substantial signature bonuses, logistical expenses, payments for asset re-evaluation studies, and the significant expense of drilling, ranging between $30 million to $50 million per well. The challenging cost structure has led to many marginal fields lying fallow, even after being auctioned during bid rounds.

Key Points:

Many marginal oil fields in Nigeria awarded to companies have not progressed to production due to the high cost of development.

The cost components include significant signature bonuses, logistics costs, payments for asset re-evaluation studies, and drilling expenses ranging between $30 million to $50 million per well.

The high development costs are attributed to factors such as outrageous signature bonuses, legal and illegal fees imposed by the government, and the awarding of fields to inexperienced individuals without technical and funding capacity.

Industry players blame the government’s approach to marginal field bid rounds, which is seen as a money-making venture, and the awarding of fields to individuals lacking the capacity for development.

The cost to develop a serious marginal field to production is estimated to range between $50 million to $100 million.

One marginal field awardee reported spending almost N6 billion (in addition to a N1 billion signature bonus) and is preparing for additional expenditure of about $20 million.


  1. Challenges in Marginal Field Development: The high cost of developing marginal oil fields in Nigeria poses a significant challenge to realizing the full potential of these assets. The financial burden, coupled with regulatory and logistical complexities, has hindered the progress of field development projects.
  2. Government Role and Regulatory Environment: Industry players point to the government’s role in imposing high signature bonuses and other fees as a contributing factor to the soaring development costs. Additionally, the lack of effective support and the perception of bid rounds as revenue-generating ventures rather than promoting field development have created hurdles for awardees.
  3. Investor Capacity and Experience: The awarding of fields to individuals without the technical and financial capacity to develop them has been cited as a factor contributing to the dormancy of many marginal fields. Ensuring that awardees possess the necessary expertise and financial backing is crucial for the successful development of these assets.
  4. Need for Industry Collaboration: Addressing the challenges associated with marginal field development requires collaboration between government bodies, industry players, and investors. Developing a supportive regulatory framework, transparent bidding processes, and providing necessary incentives can contribute to unlocking the potential of these fields.
  5. Financial Implications for Awardees: Awardees facing heavy financial implications, as highlighted by one source, underscore the need for a conducive environment that encourages investment, reduces financial burdens, and fosters the sustainable development of marginal oil fields.

Conclusion: The high development costs associated with marginal oil fields in Nigeria demand a comprehensive review of regulatory frameworks, government policies, and industry practices to create an environment conducive to investment and sustainable development. Addressing these challenges can unlock the untapped potential of marginal fields, contributing to increased oil production, economic growth, and industry collaboration.


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