The Congressional briefing, which coincided with the Offshore Technology Conference, was chaired by U.S. Congressman Bobby Rush, the Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, Sub-Committee on Trade, Commerce and Consumer Protection.
Mr. Ntephe's presentation was delivered during the session examining 'Private Sector Perspectives on Policy Impacts on Trade and Commerce.' Others participating included Shahid Ullah (Afren), Funsho Lawal (Voyager Exploration Limited) and Sam Smoots (Gulf of Guinea Energy Fund). The session took place from 9.30am to noon at the Greater Houston Partnership's Offices in Houston.
Slide 1: Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, as we say in one of the countries in the Gulf of Guinea all protocols observed.
Slide 2: I am Peter Ntephe and I represent ERHC Energy, a publicly traded American company out of Houston. ERHC’s focus is exploration and production of oil and gas in the Gulf of Guinea. As a company regulated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission, we must preface our presentation with the caveat on any forward looking statements about the company.
Slide 3: It has already been emphasized this morning that the Gulf of Guinea is one of the most prolific hydrocarbon regions of the world.
Slide 4: The strategic importance of the Gulf of Guinea to the US cannot be overemphasized. As Congressman Rush has said, the region is expected to be one of the fastest growing sources of oil and gas for the US market in the coming decades. The oil from the region tends to be high quality making it amenable to stringent refining standards in the US. The geography of the region is also favourable to the US. There is clear water between the Gulf of Guinea and the East Coast. Compared to many other oil regions that service the US market, the oil from the Gulf can be more easily transported to the US.
Slide 5: There are several challenges however to doing business in the region. There is no gainsaying the fact that the region has acquired a reputation as a high risk environment as far as the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is concerned. Then there is the creeping indigenization of the industry in the most important producer nations as represented by their local content laws. Nigeria, the biggest producer in the Gulf of Guinea, has just passed one such law.
It becomes imperative therefore, given the importance of the region to US oil interests, to seek business models that align American interests and concerns with those of the African host countries.
Slide 6: We present one of those models as ERHC Energy.
Slide 7: ERHC is incorporated in Colorado and based in Houston. It is publicly traded and in the past few months has had market capitalization ranging between a quarter and half a billion US dollars.
Slide 8: ERHC has oil and gas rights and is a major player in two main areas in the Gulf of Guinea, namely the Nigeria Sao Tome and Principe Joint Development Zone (“JDZ”) and the Sao Tome and Principe Exclusive Economic Zone (“EEZ”).
Slide 9: The JDZ and the EEZ are adjoining areas that constitute a considerable expanse of the offshore waters of Nigeria and Sao Tome and Principe.
Slide 10: In the JDZ, ERHC has rights in six of the nine blocks delineated for oil and gas exploration.
Slide 11: A five-well drilling campaign has just been completed in three of ERHC’s JDZ blocks in depths of 6,000 feet of water. The results are interesting and are currently being analysed.
Slide 12: The JDZ is of course surrounded by major discoveries, particularly in the prolific Nigerian fields to the North.
Slides 13 and 14: ERHC also has rights in the Sao Tome and Principe EEZ.
Slide 15: ERHC holds 100% of the rights to exploration and production of Blocks 4 and 11 of the EEZ with no requirement to pay signature bonus.
Slide 16: What is the uniqueness of ERHC? It is an American company formed in America by Americans a quarter of a century ago. Since 2001 however, African business and private interests have acquired substantial equity stakes. ERHC currently has over 2,000 shareholders of record and an estimated 62,000 beneficial owners. The split between American and African equity is roughly 50:50. All this has been achieved entirely by free market forces: the purchase of shares by private treaty or on the open market.
ERHC is therefore local and international at the same time. It is a truly unique company. I will challenge you to find any other company like that operating in the Gulf of Guinea. It truly aligns American interests and concerns with African ones like no other. ERHC is subject to regulation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission and aspires to best practice international corporate governance standards. Importantly too, its corporate structure is recognised by and welcome to international capital.
Slide 17: ERHC is currently seeking a listing on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange for increased capitalization.
Slide 18: Because it is a credible US company, ERHC attracted and entered into technical partnerships with Sinopec and Addax who are world-class, deep offshore operators to explore three of ERHC’s JDZ blocks. It is these arrangements initiated by ERHC that are currently driving exploration in the JDZ and made possible an expenditure of over a quarter of a billion US dollars in drilling the five wells I earlier mentioned.
Slide 19: ERHC provides opportunities for other American businesses and investors. We are currently looking for technical partners for our blocks in the Sao Tome and Principe EEZ. We are open to transact with a credible and reputable international operator but would think it in the US strategic interest if that partner were American like us.
ERHC is also a possible joint-venture partner for American oil and gas businesses (including minority-owned businesses) seeking entry into other parts of the Gulf of Guinea with a credible and knowledgeable player in the region.
Thirdly, ERHC is an investment proposition for American investors seeking to take equity stakes in a Gulf of Guinea focused energy play.
Slide 20: In conclusion, ERHC is a model for aligning American and African interests and concerns in the Gulf of Guinea. Our challenge, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, is to formulate US energy policy that encourages this and other models of co-operation that will not only further US interests in a legitimate and sustainable way but will do so in conjunction with the advancement of host country interests and concerns in the Gulf of Guinea. Thank you for giving ERHC the opportunity to participate in this Congressional briefing.