Congo’s SNPC sees new opportunities in gas and hydrogen Maixent-Raoul-OMINGA use

Our aim is to become the second- or third-biggest producer of gas in sub-Saharan Africa.


Congo’s SNPC sees new opportunities in gas and hydrogen

May 22, 2023

Maixent Raoul Ominga, director-general of Société Nationale des Pétroles du Congo (SNPC), talks to The Energy Year about how the company’s revitalisation plan will optimise energy production in the Republic of Congo and the country’s potential to become a significant natural gas player. Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2023, the state-owned oil company is taking important steps to explore new opportunities and diversify its presence across the entire energy value chain.

In 2022, SNPC launched the programme Performance 2025 in an effort to revitalise the group. How would you describe the programme’s main pillars?
Performance 2025 consists of four pillars. The first one is increasing our revenue, which will be achieved through optimising production on our oil plays and acquiring new plays both onshore and offshore.
By law we are mandated to have a share of at least 15% of all permits issued in Congo’s hydrocarbons industry. We operate only a few, yet we are keen to ramp up their production. We have been working relentlessly to identify partners for the exploitation of new sites and are confident that we will be able to increase production at our sites in the short term.
We will also operate onshore gas resources that have not been operated to date. To that end, we will soon launch the Gas Master Plan and we have identified several projects that we hope to implement in the near future. We are currently having discussions with international players and expect to start our first LNG project in 2023.
The second pillar is achieving cost reduction by optimising our upstream segment. We need to raise the standards of operation and controls, as well as the profitability of our assets. We have already created a new management unit, called Unités de Gestion des actifs non-opérés, which aims to oversee all the assets we have in partnership with other companies and optimise our supply chain.
The third pillar is supporting governmental action. As you know, the first stakeholder of SNPC is the State, and it is our mandate to market the share of crude oil belonging to the State, develop the national subsoil and ensure the country’s supply of petroleum products. We need to give back to the government and make sure that the company’s stakeholders receive what belongs to them in the form of dividends. We are working towards increasing the amount of dividends we are already giving.
Our fourth pillar is better governance and control of activities. We have a very strong social vision through the SNPC Foundation and we are actively improving our social initiatives. Through the Foundation we touch various sectors, including health, education, infrastructure, and electricity, among others. These actions aim to support the government’s objective of fighting poverty and improving the living standards of the Congolese people.

How technologically advanced is SNPC today when it comes to enhancing its E&P capabilities?
We know that we don’t have all the technologies required for exploration and exploitation and we recognise the importance of creating synergies with other companies to obtain them. In fact, we have several joint ventures with major international oil companies which have the right technology. Those partnerships showcase how we can make use of the latest technologies available on the market to meet our production goals. We have also recently acquired new drilling equipment to increase our chances of succeeding at production in 2023.
With several majors leaving Africa, the playing field grew for national oil companies and this is an opportunity we must capitalise on. Many of our employees used to work with international oil companies before joining us and we know how to take advantage of past projects and learnings to drive expansion in the years to come. It is a huge opportunity for us.


With around 352 bcm (12 tcf) of proven gas reserves, how do you view Congo’s potential to become a significant player in the gas arena?
The Republic of Congo was one of the very first countries in Central Africa to create a Gas Master Plan. However, even though building up significant gas resources remains a key priority for us, we are still working on unlocking the nation’s gas potential.
We are actively working with the Ministry of Hydrocarbons to finalise a Gas Code, which will enable us to attract investors to the Congolese gas sector and develop all the identified potential projects to maximise the valorisation of our gas resources.
In order to maximise our rate of success in this area we are doing some benchmarking in other African countries to ameliorate our strategy in this area. For instance, we recently met Sonatrach and discussed potential collaboration opportunities as Algeria has significant experience in gas exploration and exploitation.
At this stage, SNPC’s main project for gas exploration is the one with Eni. We have received additional requests, and our aim is to become the second- or third-biggest producer of gas in sub-Saharan Africa.

SNPC plans to allocate about 5% of its budget to the development of low-carbon and clean energy projects. How do you plan to achieve that?
As a company, our goal is to enhance the promotion of hydrocarbons alongside cleaner technologies, invest in energy transition initiatives and eradicate energy poverty. We know that hydrogen will be, after gas, our biggest chance to empower the green energy transition and enhance the nation’s sustainable development.
Just recently, SNPC received the authorisation to prospect for hydrogen in the country and the studies carried out with our partners confirm the existence of favourable geological conditions for natural hydrogen in the interior of the Congo Basin. Installing measurement sensors and geochemical sampling of natural hydrogen fumes in the Mboloko, Koba and Mbesse permits holds exciting prospects and we plan to attract investment through the organisation of a bid round for granting hydrogen licences in 2023.
We were thrilled to announce that our hydrogen project has been nominated for the Africa Investments Forum & Awards (AIFA) 2023’s award for best energy project. It symbolises our commitment to the world’s ecological transition and to the provision of clean energy solutions to the population of the Republic of Congo.

Is the country’s legislative framework sufficient to support the development of the renewable energy industry in the years to come?
In Congo, we auction permits for hydrocarbons, but that does not include hydrogen just yet. Therefore, along with prospecting and launching new projects, we must establish adequate legislation that supports the country’s hydrogen development. In order to make progress, it is important that all the actions taken by us to prospect and explore for hydrogen are fully synchronised with and supported by the Senate and the government. We are working on that. We do not want to implement a project and learn later down the road that executing it may not be legally possible. The time to address these matters on all levels is now.

Can you tell us more about SNPC’s social vision?
The SNPC Foundation has put in place many different initiatives – from expanding access to drinking water for rural communities to construction of new integrated health centres, improving the connection of villages to the electricity network and building several key infrastructures such as boarding schools. We are also currently spearheading a project to plant trees across the country. Our sense of corporate social responsibility has only become stronger over the years and we are committed to continuing to make efforts that are touching the lives of people.

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