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Nigeria and Russia to 'widen and deepen' energy cooperation: Novak

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Sochi — Russia is looking to strengthen ties with Africa's largest oil producer with a focus on reforming Nigeria's downstream and gas sector, the Russian energy ministry said late Wednesday.

Russia's energy minister Alexander Novak said the two countries, which already collaborate through the OPEC/non-OPEC production accord and the Gas Exporting Countries Forum, are looking to "widen and deepen" their energy cooperation.

"I am convinced that the experience, capabilities and modern technologies of Russian companies can be used to further develop the country's [Nigeria's] oil and gas sector," Novak added.

The two countries also put out a joint statement during the Russia-Africa summit in Sochi saying there will be an agreement on a joint venture between the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Russia's Lukoil focused on the refining sector in the West African country.

Nigeria is in urgent need of investment to revamp its ailing refining sector, with Africa's biggest oil producer dependent on imports to meet its local fuel needs due to inadequate domestic refining capacity.

Nigeria's four refineries, which have a combined nameplate capacity of 445,000 b/d, have long operated only sporadically, mainly due tosabotage on pipelines carrying crude to the plants and technical problems after years of neglect.

Lukoil already operates in the country, holding a stake in the deepwater oil block OML 140 offshore Nigeria.

Related story: Russia's Lukoil may develop African projects with Saudi Aramco: CEO


Nigeria and Russia have also agreed "to revive and solidify" the venture between the NNPC and Russia's Gazprom for gas infrastructure development in Nigeria, the statement added.

A decade ago, Gazprom and NNPC entered into a joint venture called Nigaz to invest in Nigeria's oil and gas infrastructure, but not much come out of it. The two countries are now hoping to revive that partnership.

Nigeria has made it a priority to unlock and harness its gas potential to increase domestic and industrial power supply. But despite having the largest gas reserves in Africa, only about 25% of those reserves are being produced or are under development, according to industry estimates.

Novak said that Russian oil and gas companies -- in particular, Rosneft, Lukoil and Gazprom -- already have close and successful relationships with Nigerian companies.

He added that there is great potential for development both in the oil sector and in the sale of LNG, oil and petroleum products, as well as interest in cooperation on exploration, according to the statement.

Russia is also ready to develop electric and nuclear power projects in Nigeria, added Novak.

-- Eklavya Gupte,

-- Rosemary Griffin,

-- Edited by Alisdair Bowles,