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Prospects and Challenges of Developing Unconventional Petroleum Resources in the Anambra Inland Basin of Nigeria


The boom in the development of unconventional petroleum resources, particularly shale gas in the United States of America during the last decade has had far reaching implications for energy markets across the world and particularly for Nigeria, a country that traditionally has been Africa's leading crude oil producer and exporter. The Cretaceous Anambra Basin is currently the only inland basin in Nigeria where the existence of commercial quantities of oil and gas has been proven (outside the Tertiary Niger Delta Basin). The possibility of similarly finding commercially viable resources of unconventional petroleum resources in the basin appears quite attractive on the basis of the existence of seepages of shale oil and presence of coal-bed methane in some of the coal seams of the Mamu Formation (Lower Coal Measures) in the basin. This paper presents the results of our preliminary assessment of the shale oil and gas resources of the Anambra Basin. Our main objective is to locate the zones of very high quality plays within the basin, focusing on their depositional environments (whether marine or non-marine), areal extent of the target shale formations, gross shale intervals, total organic content, and thermal maturity. Data on the total organic content (TOC %, by weight) and thermal maturity of shales from different wells in the basin show that many of the shales have high TOCs (i.e greater than 2%) comparable to known shale gas and shale oil plays globally. Shale oil seepages are known to occur around Lokpanta in south-eastern Nigeria, but there is a general predominance of gas-prone facies in our inland basins indicating good prospects for finding unconventional petroleum in this and other Nigerian inland sedimentary basins. The main challenge to the exploration of unconventional resources in Nigeria today has to do with the absence of the enabling laws and regulatory framework governing their exploration and subsequent exploitation. The revised Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) currently under consideration in the National Assembly is expected to introduce drastic and lasting changes in the way the petroleum industry business is conducted in the country, but all the provisions of the draft law pertain mainly to conventional oil and gas resources.