By Our Reporter
After reaching new deepwater oil production sharing agreements, four major oil companies have agreed to end U.S. lawsuits that together sought to enforce multi-billion dollar arbitration awards against Nigeria’s state-owned oil firm, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL).
Two federal judges on August 22 granted requests by Exxon Mobil Corp, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Chevron Corp and Norway’s state-owned Equinor ASA to put their lawsuits against Nigerian National Petroleum Co on hold so the agreements could take effect, likely by late October.
The companies said they expect to terminate the litigation thereafter.
NNPC renewed its agreements with the four companies and France’s TotalEnergies SE on August 12.
Those agreements concerned five deepwater blocks that officials said could produce as many as 10 billion barrels over 20 years.
Exxon and Shell had been seeking to enforce a $1.8 billion arbitration award against NNPC from 2011, while Chevron and Equinor sought to enforce a $995 million award from 2015.
Both stemmed from accusations that NNPC drew more oil than permitted under contracts that dated from 1993, and which were designed to encourage oil companies to invest billions of dollars for exploration and development.
The awards have since grown in size, and together were recently worth closer to $4 billion, court papers show.
In their respective orders, U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield dismissed the Exxon-Shell case to allow time for the NNPC agreements to take effect, while U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel stayed the Chevron-Equinor case for 45 days.
On July 8, a U.S. appeals court said Exxon and Shell were entitled to enforce part of their award against NNPC, rejecting a lower court judge’s refusal to enforce any of it.