An employee walks on top of an oil tank at a Sinopec refinery in Wuhan, Hubei province. Picture: REUTERS
An employee walks on top of an oil tank at a Sinopec refinery in Wuhan, Hubei province. Picture: REUTERS

PARIS — Total, France’s largest oil company, is selling a 20% stake in a Nigerian offshore oilfield to China Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec) for about $2.5bn as part of an asset-disposal programme.

Total said on Monday it had signed a deal to sell the stake in the OML 138 block, which produces 130,000 barrels a day of oil equivalent and contains the Usan field, which started production in February.

The asset accounts for about 10% of Total’s Nigerian production, which averaged 287,000 barrels a day last year.

The French group said in September that it planned to sell assets worth between $15bn and $20bn through to 2014 as part of a bolder approach to managing its business, which has seen it buy and sell assets more frequently.

China’s state-backed energy companies are seeking new oil and gas reserves abroad to feed the world’s second-largest economy, especially from regions such as Africa where government scrutiny is lighter than in North America or Europe.

Nigeria is Africa’s largest crude oil exporter and oil companies operating there have long had to deal with attacks on their pipelines and staff, with the country’s worst floods in 50 years seriously affecting their output.

Total CE Christophe de Margerie said earlier this month the group did not intend to disengage from Nigeria altogether.

"It doesn’t mean we are scared and intend to start some kind of walking out of Nigeria. Total is happy to develop its projects in Nigeria."

Reuters