The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has officially commenced oil exploration in the Benue trough with the mobilisation of its data services department to acquire seismic data.

Speaking during a courtesy call on Governor Samuel Ortom at the Benue People’s House wednesday, the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Dr Maikanti Baru, said the seismic data collection would commence from Ondori Main Camp at the boundary between Benue and Nasarawa States and cut across Makurdi, Guma, Gwer-East, Gwer-West and Logo local government areas.

Baru said the seismic data acquisition was based on the encouraging results of the previous studies carried out in the Benue trough by the corporation in the areas of geological studies and basin modeling, aeromagnetic ground gravity and surface geochemistry survey.

While stressing that President Muhammadu Buhari had in 2015, directed NNPC to resume oil exploration activities in some of the nation’s inland basins including Chad Basin and the Benue trough, the GMD, expressed the hope that the success of the results from seismic data acquisition would lead to the drilling of exploration wells and launch Benue state into the league of oil producing states in the country.

On the Biofuel project, Baru said it would attract benefits like the creation of one million direct and indirect jobs, 20,000 hectares of sugarcane feedstock plantation, Cane Mill and Raw/Refined Sugar Plant which would produce 126,000 tons per year and Fuel-Ethanol Processing Plant which would produce 84 million liters every year.

He equally stated that the Biofuel Project component of Bagasse Cogeneration Power Plant would have a capacity of 64 mega watts while Carbon Dioxide Recovery and Bottling Plant would produce 2,000 tons per year.

According to him, animal feeds worth 63,000 tonnes would be produced yearly.

Responding, Ortom said the state was excited and extended the people’s appreciation to Buhari for considering Benue for the two projects.

The governor prayed God to make the two projects a reality and expressed his administration’s commitment towards ensuring that adequate security was provided for the workers and equipment.

While acknowledging the fact that there would be massive employment opportunities for the people, Ortom said the implementation of the anti-open grazing law would enable farmers work the year round.

The governor said the projects need to be speedily executed and constituted a high powered committee headed by the Deputy Governor, Benson Abounu, to ensure their success.

Also yesterday, the NNPC said it would build a new biofuel plant with the capacity to produce 65 million litres annually in the Okeluse area of Ondo State.

The plant, it noted, would be sited on a 15,000 hectares land space to be provided by the government of Ondo State, and upon which a special breed of cassava plantation would be cultivated to provide feedstock to the biofuel plant and animal feed production.

A statement from NNPC’s Group General Manager, Public Affairs, Mr. Ndu Ughammadu, in Abuja, noted that an agreement to this effect was signed between the corporation’s Group Managing Director, Dr. Maikanti Baru, and Governor of Ondo State, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN).

It explained that the corporation decided on the biofuel plant as part of its commitment to ensure unimpeded supply of petroleum products in Nigeria, as well as safeguard the environment by reducing its carbon emission and footprint.
Similarly, the project, it quoted Baru to have explained, would not be undertaken by NNPC alone, but with investors who are expected to invest in it to create at least one million direct and indirect jobs, as well as help Nigeria reduce the volume of fuel she imports annually.

While helping the country reduce greenhouse gas emission to combat global warming, Baru equally noted that through it, Nigeria would be able to consistently claim carbon credit from international green credit systems.

“Your Excellency, we have already discussed with you and you have agreed to make 15,000 hectares of land available towards the cultivation of this cassava. It will, of course, in the process invite people who are used to farming cassava as well as new entrepreneurs who want to go into that business to participate in the cultivation of the cassava that we are going to use for the production of the fuel ethanol.

“We expect that this plant, when built, will be producing at least 65 million litres per annum of fuel ethanol that could be blended into our petrol and will be used in Nigeria and neighbouring countries when exported,” said Baru.

He further disclosed that the biofuel project would be fitted with a 40 megawatts electricity plant that would also supply power to the host communities, and allayed fears of any possible negative impact of the plant on the supply of cassava-based foods for human consumption.

According to him, the cassava that would be used for the biofuel project would be a special breed that would not be in competition for human consumption or interfere with the activities of farmers cultivating other breeds of cassava or other crops.

He added: “The benefits of this project to Nigeria and specifically to Ondo State are immense and NNPC is very eager to see it implemented. We are working with the investors who will invest because there are several dimensions to the project.”

Also in the statement, Akeredolu expressed confidence that the biofuel project would take off for the benefit of the people of the state and the country in general, and assured of the state’s commitment to it.