Wood Mackenzie, the energy consultancy, has cut its output forecast for Nigeria by more than a fifth or about 28.5%, to 1.5m barrels a day on average over the next decade.
Its previous forecast for the period was 2.1m barrels a day, roughly in line with present output levels.
“The government is not doing a good job of signaling and this could hurt [Nigeria’s oil production] in the medium term even if oil prices recover,” said Gail Anderson, lead Nigeria analyst at Wood Mackenzie.
Analysts say the oil price collapse that began in mid-2014 has forced companies to cut investment worldwide, but there has been even less incentive to back Nigerian projects because of the country’s policy uncertainties.
A drop in production would be another blow to government finances, as low crude prices have sparked the country’s worst economic slowdown in 15 years.
It would also come at a time of rising population growth in essence leading to lower oil income per capita for Nigerian citizens.
The problem for Nigeria if this materializes would be a loss in market share even if oil prices recover as other countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia and Iraq, are ramping up production today by investing in the necessary infrastructure.
A major reason for the decline in Nigeria’s projected production is that global oil companies are concerned that NNPC will continue to fail to fund its share of joint ventures.
Analysts say about $15bn of investment is needed just to maintain current production levels and compensate for a natural decline in production of about 250,000 b/d each year as some oilfields mature.
NNPC recently approached its joint venture partners and proposed to pay disputed arrears of between $8bn and $10bn, saying that these shortfalls “could cripple” the industry if left unaddressed.
Nigeria has an ambition to double its current production to 4m barrels a day, which has largely failed to materialize.
Many stakeholders and even the government say that the target would be achievable if NNPC were freed from direct government control and run as a commercial enterprise.