SAPETRO : Built in Africa

Editorial Team
Editorial Team

SAPETRO is a Nigerian based upstream oil and gas exploration and production company with portfolio of five assets in four countries spanning the full E&P value chain.


Perhaps one of the most crucial sectors in the modern oil and gas industry is the exploration sector. The people who search for new oil fields are among those taking the biggest risks in the industry, while seeking out the greatest rewards. This is what SAPETRO does. The firm is an indigenous Nigerian exploration and production company with operations in Nigeria, the Republic of Benin, Madagascar and the French Overseas territories. The company was established in 1995 with the specific objective of building up the Nigerian capability to participate in the hydrocarbon industry.

It was an ambitious goal, but one which very quickly began to pay off.

“In the indigenous bid round in 1998 SAPETRO was awarded the deepwater frontier acreage OPL 246,” explains Martin Trachsel, SAPETRO’s CEO. “The company entered into a partnership with Total and Petrobras to undertake a very successful exploration programme leading to the discovery of the 500mmbbl Akpo field and the similar size Egina field. Post discovery the partnership was joined by CNOOC and the four parties jointly undertook the development of the Akpo field.

The Akpo fi eld came on stream in 2009 and is now producing at a plateau rate of 175,000bbls/day. This year the partnership also took a final investment decision to bring Egina fi eld on stream by 2017. They’re predicting the Egina field will have a production rate of 200,000bbls/day. Additionally SAPETRO has continued to expand into new frontiers, laying claim to yet more lucrative territories.

“In 2004 we entered the Republic of Benin as an operator in our own right. There we are the 100 percent owners of block 1, where we have concluded a successful appraisal programme and are currently redeveloping the Seme field,” Trachsel says. “More recently in 2011 we acquired very substantial acreage in the Mozambique Channel from Roc Oil where we have undertaken a 13,000km high-tech 2D seismic survey, which shows very significant promise. Starting in September we will undertake a 9,000sqkm 3D survey in the same area, and we’re very excited about the potential results.”

What makes SAPETRO’s story so interesting isn’t just the highly successful ventures the company has already engaged in however, it’s that these successes are happening in the hands of an entirely indigenous African company.

As the company’s slogan says, “Africa is our home”.

“SAPETRO is a home-grown African company who understand doing business in Africa and how to create and maintain value adding partnerships,” Trachsel says. “The company has been highly successful in creating value in Nigeria and intends to continue doing so while looking for high impact opportunities to repeat this success in other African countries.”

Of course, any success worth having doesn’t come easily, and creating an entirely home grown exploration operation from scratch was no mean feat.

“When SAPETRO started out the biggest challenge was in building our technical capabilities from scratch. But there is a lot of talent in Nigeria which the company has been able to capture and develop. Our joint venture has faced and overcome the challenges of successful deepwater development in Nigeria while maximising the use of local content. Abroad we operate in a highly competitive environment but we have been successful in obtaining attractive exploration positions and demonstrating that we can successfully operate and explore abroad.”

Of course a large part of the reason the company’s ventures have been so successful is that SAPETRO is a company dedicated to building the best team it possibly can. To this end the firm has an extensive and thorough recruitment process.

“We advertise all our positions in the national papers to ensure people from all over the country have a chance to apply but we also invite nominations from recruitment companies,” Trachsel says. “So we always have a large pool to select from and take great care in the selection process to find excellent candidates.”

But building the best team doesn’t end with simply hiring the right staff.

“Once hired we take care to ensure our staff have opportunities to develop and grow and we provide frequent training opportunities. In the past we have posted some staff with partners for development, but we now have enough of our own operations and mentors to develop people internally.”

Today the hard work of SAPETRO is really starting to see some concrete results, as it comes to the end of what has been an extremely productive year for the company.

“The last 12 months have been extremely busy but highly successful,” Trachsel says. “Akpo has produced steadily at its designed plateau and we have managed to overcome the many challenges in making a final investment decision on Egina. In Seme we have successfully commenced the field redevelopment programme and we are now constructing facilities and preparing for drilling in October. Meanwhile, in the Mozambique Channel we have been delighted by the results of our 2D seismic interpretation with the identification of over 70 leads, the best of which we will shortly be covering by 3D seismic.”

But even this is just the beginning of what SAPETRO has planned.

“We’re definitely planning steady further growth inside and outside Nigeria,” Trachsel tells us. “We are currently looking very seriously at IOC divestment opportunities and I think we will be able to put together some very credible and serious bids focusing on what we can do to build production for Nigeria and improve the lives of local communities while continuing to build our company. We’re also going to continue to explore our concessions in the Mozambique Channel as well as looking for further high impact opportunities elsewhere on the continent.”

Amidst this expansion, SAPETRO continues to enjoy unrivalled support from its own er, Nigerian military general turned businessman, General Theophilus Danjuma, whose other interests span across shipping, construction, hospitality, petrochemicals and real estate. Having a wholly owned Nigerian oil and gas company providing opportunities for Nigerians in addition to exporting valuable skills to other African countries where significant investments are being made by SAPETRO in the exploration and development projects is truly a dream come true.

To learn more visit

Share This Article