Nigeria to Rescind Licenses on Dormant Oilfields

Nigeria will rescind the licenses of non-performing oil block operators if they failed to explain why such fields were left dormant. "For effective operation of oil prospecting licenses and oil mining leases, we carried out a detailed review of activities in the blocks," Macaulay Ofurhie, director of the Department of Petroleum Resources told a news conference in Lagos.

"Non-performing block operators were advised to explain reasons for the non-performance...if the explanations are unacceptable...the operators stand the risk of losing their licenses," he added.

Nigeria's output of more than two million barrels per day is pumped from 145 blocks operated by six oil majors in joint ventures with state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corp, which owns over 50 percent in each deal.

The country still has 143 virgin blocks, officials said. Nigeria hopes to offer acreage in a deepwater licensing round in 2005, after concluding ongoing oil sector reforms.

The African top producer - aiming to expand its capacity to 2.5 million bpd by year-end and 3.5 million bpd by 2006 - last awarded blocks through competitive bidding in 2000. Since then it has been offering acreage in a selective process.