IT WAS AT THE BEGINNING of Issoufou's first term, in 2011, that petroleum production started at Agadem, and when the inauguration of the Zinder refinery, 450km away, took place. This allowed the country to become part of the African Petroleum Producers' Association (APPA). The country's proven reserves, estimated at 1.2bn barrels, are the equivalent of around 30 years of production.
Since 2008, the year in which the Production-Sharing Agreement (PSA) of Agadem field was signed with the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and the government of the Republic of Niger, more than $2bn has been invested in exploration. About a hundred wells have been drilled with a success rate of 80%.
Despite its rich underground, only three companies operate in the sector: CNPC, Sonatrach/Sipex (from Algeria) and the British Savannah Petroleum are currendy present in the country.
The Chinese are exploiting the oil in the Agadem, Bilma and Tenere regions--the Agadem field feeds the Zinder refinery (which has a processing capacity of 20',000 b/d, of which 7,000 are for domestic use) through a dedicated pipeline spanning 460km.
The Algerians exploit the Kafra block, and, Savannah conducts its exploration activities on four blocks at Agadem. These four blocks were previously Chinese exploration areas but the law in the Niger requires oil companies to hand back their blocks after four years if no commercial returns have been recorded. Savannah has benefitted from CNPC's exploration work in the blocks it has inherited and should begin drilling early next year.
"The country is very welcoming to newcomers; this is a stable and safe destination for foreign investors that offers many advantages. We are eager to increase our investments in the country in the coming years," says Andrew Knott, Savannah's chief executive.
The state issues two types of permits to oil companies: exclusive exploration licences for a period of four years, renewable twice for a two-year period (exploration phase) and exclusive exploitation authorisations for a period of 25 years, renewable for...