US beams searchlight on Ghana’s Saltpond platform over stolen crude



The United States government has launched investigation into crude oil shipments from Saltpond platform, a small oil facility off the coast of Ghana, due to strong suspicion that some of Nigeria’s stolen oil may be exported through the facility.

The majority owner of the platform, Lushann International Energy Corporation, a private company based in Houston, has agreed that some of the oil it loads into tankers come from Nigeria but insisted that it purchases the crude legally from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which has the primary responsibility of cracking down on oil smuggling.

Though the investigators are yet to arrive at the particulars of evidence, a Saltpond official was said to have testified that the crude oil was got from the EFCC.

The platform, it was learnt, has been shipping large quantities of crude oil from unknown sources to Europe in recent months.
The Wall Street Journal on Friday quoted United States officials as saying that Washington was probing Saltpond as part of the broader enquiry into how Nigeria’s crude oil is being stolen and exported by local and international syndicates.

The investigation by the United States, it was learnt, stemmed from a recent revelation that the small oil facility is exporting large quantities of crude to Europe, raising questions by Nigerian and United States authorities about whether some of the oil were stolen from Nigeria.

Some United States and Nigerian officials are said to be suspecting that Saltpond is one of several destinations that crude oil thieves use to trans-ship stolen Nigerian crude, effectively laundering it by making it appear to come from a legitimate source outside Nigeria.

Ghana’s government inaugurated the Saltpond platform in 1978 to pump oil from an offshore field.

It was gathered that initially, the field, located seven miles off the country’s coast, produced more than a million barrels a year but that later dwindled to just over 100,000 barrels in 2013, The Wall Street Journal quoted Ghana’s Finance Ministry, as saying.

Port officials, ship-tracking services and port record, however, showed that since last August, three export tankers loaded more than 470,000 barrels from Saltpond, transporting it to an Italian refinery near the port of Genoa.

The operator of the Saltpond platform, which has denied any wrongdoing, and some Nigerian government officials have said that the facility had a legitimate contract with the Federal Government to trans-ship oil that law-enforcement agencies in Nigeria have confiscated from thieves.

But officials of the Federal Government said the quantity of crude oil recovered from thieves is small, raising questions about the origins of the rest of the oil the platform has loaded into ships.

However, the Saltpond platform, meanwhile, has been a destination for at least one vessel connected to Nigerian oil theft, according to ship-tracking services.

In recent years, executives and officials estimate that as much as 80per cent of Nigeria’s stolen oil is being shipped out of the country in small tankers.

President Goodluck Jonathan had appealed to the international community to assist Nigeria in curbing oil theft, insisting that it is foreign refineries that buy this stolen crude as Nigeria does not have adequate refining capacity.

“Tankers often will come twice a week to load [stolen oil in Nigeria] and will go abroad,” agency report quoted a senior US official familiar with the issue saying.

The US official was however, referring to international smuggling and not to Saltpond.
“But it’s extremely difficult to investigate the final destination,” he added.

Washington has in recent years strengthened ties with the federal government and has set up a working group to liaise with Nigerian officials to help curb the smuggling.

The General Manager of Tema, Ghana-based Petro-Marine Consult Ltd., which specialises in ship cargo inspections, Mr. Emmanuel Oware was also quoted as saying that small vessels that have loaded what he called “unofficial” oil in Niger Delta frequently come to discharge at Saltpond.

“There, the Nigerian crude is mixed with Ghanaian oil. It comes from Nigeria, but it gets a certificate of Ghana origin,” he said.
The oil is then transferred to larger tankers, according to Oware, who said he inspected a trans-shipment at Saltpond in 2013.

Lushann International Energy Corporation did not dispute that some of the oil it loads into tankers at Saltpond come from Nigeria.
But Lushann’s owner said the company purchases the crude legally from the EFCC, the authority with primary responsibility for cracking down on oil smuggling.

The company stated that the EFCC sells crude that it seizes in its pursuit of oil theft.

“The only crude we take from Nigeria…has been seized by the government,” the President and owner of Lushann, Quincy Sintim, was quoted as saying in a telephone interview.

“We have invoices that we pay to EFCC Nigeria,” he added.

Sintim said Saltpond’s production had never been higher than 200,000 barrels a year since his company took over in 2000, and declined to comment further.

However, when contacted yesterday, EFCC Head of Media and Publicity, Wilson Uwujaren, told THISDAY that ” EFCC is not an oil marketing company and could not have issued any invoice to any oil trader to lift confiscated crude oil from Nigeria.”

Uwujaren further maintained that “claims about such invoices purportedly emanating from the Commission by any person or organization should be discountenanced as such documents would have been forged by fraudsters.”
The owner and head of Fenix Impex Nig Ltd., a Nigerian oil-trading firm, Jarret Tenebe said he had been selling confiscated Nigerian crude oil to Saltpond on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, but said the quantities were small.

Head of Public Affairs at the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Mrs. Dorathy Bassey said Fenix only loaded “about 2,000 barrels” of confiscated crude oil since late 2012.

It is unclear how much of that was sold to Saltpond but Fenix is Saltpond’s only provider of EFCC-confiscated crude, according to Sintim.

The provenance of the other oil that made its way to an Italian refinery over the course of the past year, however, isn’t clear.
Three cargoes, listed in shipping documents as “Saltpond blend crude oil,” went to Genoa’s terminal for delivery to Italy’s Iplom SpA refinery, according to shipping and port records and officials.

Two cargoes, unloaded in August 2013 and February 2014, carried about 340,000 barrels altogether, according to Genoa port officials.

The third tanker, unloaded on April of this year, carried 132,000 barrels. Together, that’s more than four times the platform’s 2013 output of around 100,000 barrels, according to the Ghana government figures.

Iplom’s President, Giorgio Profumo confirmed his refinery had received crude labeled as coming from Saltpond but said he believed the cargoes were legitimate because they are approved by the Ghana authorities.

Ghana’s customs and petroleum regulator didn’t return an emailed request for comment and couldn’t be reached over the phone.
Saltpond, meanwhile, has been a frequent port of call for at least one vessel connected with Nigerian oil smuggling.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that Akshay is a tanker co-owned by Ajay Bhatia, an Indian national who was sentenced in a Nigerian court in May in absentia to 15 years in jail for oil theft.

The Akshay traveled three times between Nigeria and Saltpond in the four months before the ship’s seizure by the Nigerian navy, for allegedly carrying stolen crude, in November 2012, according to shipping tracker service IHS Fairplay.

Two other vessels partly owned by Bhatia also travel frequently from Nigeria to Saltpond, according to vessel database and to some of the ships’ crew members.

Asked about the Akshay and other vessels co-owned by  Bathia,  Sintim said he would look into those tankers’ activity at Saltpond but didn’t respond when contacted again.

A lawyer for Bhatia declined to comment.  Bhatia didn’t respond to numerous calls, text messages and emails.

[Ejiofor Alike and Paul Obi, This Day]

Ofserv attends SPE NAICE 2014 conference

A big thank you to all who visited our stand at the recently concluded SPE NAICE 2014 conference.

We enjoyed meeting you and we were glad you got a chance to see our products and services and discuss your requirements.

The exhibition was a great success for Ofserv Nigeria. Our key services: Directional Drilling (MWD/LWD/DD) and Facility Maintenance (Rope Access, Permasense: Corrosion Monitoring) generated a lot of excitement from old customers and newer ones alike.

SPE Conference


Link showing pictures from the event.

(Link to gallery)

Please do not hesitate to contact our sales team at [email protected] with any questions, feedback or inquiries.

Is Drilling Performance just a Cliché?

Regardless of geographical location of operations, Oil and Gas Operators are faced with the challenge of delivering wells efficiently in spite of increasing well complexities, inexperienced personnel, unconventional and less accessible hydrocarbon reserves, factors, which, all put together, lead to increased non-productive time (NPT) and associated trouble costs.

~ 30% average NPT (1998-2003) Trouble cost:  $1058 MM/6 yrs. = $176 MM/yr. (Source: Major IOC)

Best performing operators (Top Quartile) report average NPT of 10 – 15% of overall well construction time. This represents a per annum savings in the order of $30-$60 Million in the example of the operator outlined above.

An enabler towards creating a step change that drives Non-productive time and associated trouble-cost reduction is the introduction and entrenchment of a performance culture within well delivery (drilling & completion) teams.

Consistently, well delivery in Nigeria is found to underperform what obtains in most other regions with active drilling operations. While there are several localized, contributing factors to excessive well costs, that may be somewhat difficult to control, performance gains can be inherently obtained when leadership teams deliberately adopt and permeate the organization with a performance culture.

Understanding key success factors, establishing key indicators & metrics, clear communication guidelines & protocols, driving accountability & not just responsibility, as well as adoption of the right technologies are all factors that enhances productivity of drilling teams when fused together with the new culture.

With multi-disciplinary expertise and knowledge, we help operators improve the quality and speed of well delivery planning and execution. Clients stand to benefit from several years of partnering with Operators to implement Drilling Performance Consulting, encompassing tactical business process improvement activities, such as internal and external benchmarking studies, performance optimization, crew engagement & coaching, failure/trouble analysis, Lessons Learned Management etc.

While Drilling Engineers are subject matter experts who must continue to focus on the technical aspects of the drilling operation, there is a place for consultants who will focus on introducing, fostering and driving performance within the drilling teams by executing the various elements of the Drilling Performance & Measurement Services (DPAMS), a model, underpinned by “Technical Limit Drilling“ principles.

Technical Limit Drilling process strives towards achieving optimum performance in all phases of the drilling operation, using the best possible people, planning and technology while challenging existing practices.

Potential gains are apparent where a 50% reduction in NPT (e.g. reducing from 30% to 15%) translates to a net savings of 15% in rig time and cost. As NPT reduction stacks up over multiple rigs, there comes a time where these performance gains would give an operator an extra rig free of cost.

Drilling Performance and Monitoring – DPAMS

The Drilling Performance and Measurement Services (DPAMS) model is geared towards unlocking hidden value within our client’s drilling teams. This is achieved via the strategic integration of technology, robust processes and engaged personnel in a coordinated, sustainable program.

DPAMS encompasses a portfolio of strategic and tactical assessment and implementation activities overarched by the critical step of leadership enrolment within a 4-phase structure.


Ofserv DPAMS Methodology
Fig 1: Ofserv DPAMS Methodology


Leadership Enrollment

The high-level business case for the program is determined through internal benchmarking and gap analysis, which identifies current state while qualifying and quantifying the improvement opportunities and the cost – benefit to closing identified gaps. This is carried out at the Leadership Enrolment phase of the program. With the Business case established and action plan developed, we work with the client leadership to take ownership of the process, clarify accountabilities as well as supportive behaviours critical to the success of the process.

Challenge Workshops

The overview of the upcoming well program is presented at a facilitated pre-spud or pre-activity workshop where a challenge culture is officially introduced to the entire well delivery (operator and service company) team and DPAMS process is formally launched and its connection to safety outlined. Opportunities to optimize the well program at both the pre drill as well as the operational stage of the well are encouraged. Operator, rig crew and service company personnel are engaged in a highly collaborative session designed to utilize the expertise of everyone in the room. Every individual connected with the planned well is helped to see how critical his or her role is to the success of the upcoming operation.

The well program is broken down into discrete activities for easier challenge and analysis. Activities are challenged for latent risks, while technical limit opportunities and risk mitigating factors are discussed and agreed. At the conclusion of the challenge session, target times are set and incorporated into the well program. Each group representative presents his or her updated program and new target times set. Ofserv Performance Engineer assigned to the project, is introduced for the first time to all stakeholders. The Performance Engineer takes final responsibility for collating all the various group’s input into the well program and ensure that any lesson learned from discussion is incorporated within the program and a lessons learned register started.


Figure 2: Technical Limit
Figure 2: Technical Limit




This is the phase where our Performance Engineers begin to perform tactical tasks of implementing the well program from a performance standpoint. They work side-by-side with the rig leadership as well as rig crew and service company personnel. They begin to actively drive a continuous improvement and performance culture and embedding the DPAMS planning, performing, measuring and learning ethos.  The phase consists of 4 iterative steps as follows:



Examples of metrics tracked and reported

  • Non productive time (NPT)
  • Invisible lost time (ILT)
  • Feet/meters per day
  • Days per 10K
  • Flat time
  • Rig moves
  • Realized value of “lessons learned”
  • Cost under AFE
  • Time under AFE
  • Riser running speed
  • BOP test times


Figure 3: Performance Data Used for Bench-marking and Further Performance Optimization Initiatives
Figure 3: Performance Data Used for Bench-marking and Further Performance Optimization Initiatives




Our goal on any project is to identify the exit path and agree upfront with the client the timing and strategy for disengagement and process sustainability.

DPAMS is unique in its ability to be tailored to the client’s unique needs and helps both customers who need to build a performance optimization program from the ground up as well as those needing to enhance and focus performance improvement initiatives in order to realize optimum value from their existing programs.


Typical Results

Our proven approach to Drilling Performance consistently delivers sustainable business results placing some of our clients on the way towards Top Quartile performance.


You can reach your drilling performance goals; you just have to define them:

If you have been wondering how to improve your company’s drilling performance and reduce well delivery cost, contact us for a no obligation consultation session. We would like to work with you to:

  • Select a rig to pilot DPAMS
  • Phase 1: Conduct Benchmarking / Gap Analysis – Leadership Enrollment
  • Phase 2: Establish the business case, achievable ROI & Develop Action plan to reach improvement goals.


Microscopic view of the Ebola virus Photo_ Frederick Murphy_CDC_PA
Microscopic view of the Ebola virus Photo: Frederick Murphy/CDC/PA

Ebola is a severe illness transmitted through direct contact with the blood, body fluids, and tissues of infected animals or people. Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals. In Africa, infection has been documented through the handling of infected chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines found ill or dead or in the rainforest. It then spreads in the community through human-to-human transmission, with infection resulting from direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and indirect contact with environments contaminated with such fluids. Burial ceremonies in which mourners have direct contact with the body of the deceased person can also play a role in the transmission of Ebola.



Symptoms typically start two days to three weeks after contracting the virus, with a fever, throat and muscle pains, and headaches. There is then typically nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea, along with decreased functioning of the liver and kidneys. At this point, some people begin to have problems with bleeding.



If you stay in an area with known Ebola cases, make sure you do the following:

  • Practice careful hygiene. Avoid contact with blood and body fluids.
  • Do not handle items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids.
  • Avoid funeral or burial rituals that require handling the body of someone who has died from Ebola.
  • Avoid contact with bats and nonhuman primates or blood, fluids, and raw meat prepared from these animals.
  • Avoid hospitals where Ebola patients are being treated.
  • Monitor your health and seek medical care immediately if you develop symptoms of Ebola.



There is no specific treatment for the virus; Efforts to help persons who are infected include giving them either oral rehydration therapy or intravenous fluids. The disease has a high mortality rate: often between 50% and 90% of those who are infected with the virus. It typically occurs in outbreaks in tropical regions of Sub-Saharan Africa. Between 1976, when it was first identified, and 2014, fewer than 1,000 people a year have been infected. The largest outbreak to date is the ongoing 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak, which is affecting Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. The disease was first identified in the Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Efforts are ongoing to develop a vaccine; however, none exists as of 2014.


Current and Past Outbreaks

Ebola first appeared in 1976 in Nzara, Sudan, and Yambuku, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Previously, the majority of Ebola cases occurred in the DRC, the Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and Uganda. The current Ebola outbreak is one of the largest Ebola outbreaks in history and the first in West Africa. It is affecting four countries in West Africa: Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. Cases have also been recorded in the past in places like England in 1976 with one (1) reported case and no deaths, in the United States of America in 1994 with four (4) reported cases and no deaths and in 2004, one (1) death was reported in Russia as a result of the Ebola virus.


Ebola in Nigeria

The Government of Nigeria (GoN) declared a State of Emergency on August 8 and approved more than $11 million to combat EVD, according to international media. Nigeria’s first reported EVD case occurred when a dual Liberian–American citizen traveled from Liberia to Lagos on July 20 and died on July 25 after expressing symptoms. Nigeria had tested and confirmed 10 additional EVD cases—all individuals who had direct contact with the initial case—as of August 12, international media report.


Click here to get more information on the Ebola virus.