Apr 20, 2017

Shell and Eni in ‘unholy mess’ over Nigerian oil

When Royal Dutch Shell was awarded sole control of a prized Nigerian offshore oil exploration licence called OPL 245 in 2002, there were hopes of a fresh start for international energy companies in Africa's most crude-rich nation. Fifteen years later, OPL 245 and its estimated 9bn barrels of oil are still undeveloped and it would be surprising if Shell was not bitterly regretting its involvement with an asset that has become a byword for opaque business practices in Nigeria. A $1.3bn deal in 2011 under which Shell and Eni of Italy each received 50 per cent of OPL 245 was intended to end years of wrangling during which successive Nigerian governments handed the licence back and forth between Shell and Malabu. The $1.3bn payment by the two companies in relation to OPL 245 was made to the Nigerian government, and both Shell and Eni say they had no involvement in what happened to the money subsequently. Some analysts say the OPL 245 deal involving Shell and Eni simply reflects the realities of doing business in Nigeria, where the ruling elite has long monopolised the spoils of the country's natural resources.

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