By NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman, African Energy Chamber
Under the leadership of Keith Hill, Canada-based Africa Oil Corp. has become one of the most competitive and impactful independent oil and gas explorers operating in the African continent.
Within the last two years alone, Africa Oil Corp. announced a major discovery offshore Namibia with partner TotalEnergies and secured two production-sharing contracts for offshore Blocks EG-18 and EG-31 in Equatorial Guinea.
The company has campaigns in Nigeria, South Africa, and the Senegal Guinea Bissau Joint Development Zone as well.
By driving widespread exploration and production throughout our continent, Africa Oil Corp. has been opening the door for African countries to overcome energy poverty and maximize the value of their petroleum resources.
These are some of the reasons why in 2022, I said that both Africa Oil Corp. and Hill, the company’s president and CEO, were game changers. The African Energy Chamber was proud of the work the company was doing in Africa then, and we remain proud of it today, even as our window to work with Hill draws to a close.
Hill will be stepping down as the company’s president and CEO on Sept. 5, 2023.
He’s leaving with the appreciation and respect of the African Energy Chamber. Hill has been a strong believer in Africa and a just energy transition for our continent. He has repeatedly shown himself to be the right leader at the right time, both for his company and for Africa’s energy industry.
A Deal-Maker and Risk-Taker
Hill, who got his start in the oil industry more than 35 years ago, earned his bachelor’s degree in geophysics and a master’s in geology from Michigan State University. He also holds an MBA from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. But like every other wildcatter of his day, he learned the oil business the hard way — through deal-making and risk-taking.
A sustaining belief in the future of offshore exploration led Hill to the frontier of deepwater West Africa, including Equatorial Guinea, along with Namibia and South Africa in the southern region of the continent. Seating with him late night in Namibia over beer he shared some fun stories with me about Sudan and Africa. He tells you African energy stories with so much passion that you will feel he has a love affair with Duke’s mayonnaise and Afrobeats.
During difficult moments, Hill will never hide his imperfections. He has his and it seats on his front porch. He is a straight shooter and does not glory in the slow, musical cadence of small talk. He looked and me in the eye and made a promise and he kept it. He is still one of the few in the business that can do a deal with a handshake and it is respected.
During his career, he has led successful exploration, asset acquisitions, and production campaigns at Africa Oil Corp., Shell Oil, and Occidental Petroleum. He was behind successful exploration initiatives by BlackPearl Resources Inc., Valkyries Petroleum Corp., and Tyner Resources as well.
Hill also is the chairman of Canadian oil explorer and developer ShaMaran Petroleum Corp. Before joining Africa Oil Corp. in 2009, he was the CEO of Canada-based The Lundin Group, which comprises minerals, metals, renewables, and energy sector companies.
During Hill’s 14-plus years at the helm of Africa Oil Corp., the company has grown from a fledgling independent exploration company to a full-cycle upstream company.
Steady Growth, Significant Impact
In 2022, Africa Oil Corp. made global headlines as a result of its stake in TotalEnergies’ massive Venus prospect in the Orange Basin offshore Namibia. Venus is believed to hold billions of barrels of light oil and associated gas. TotalEnergies’ discovery was the largest of 2022, and Africa Oil Corp. was the only publicly listed independent E&P company with exposure to it, through a 30.9% shareholding in its investee company, Impact Oil and Gas, one of the project partners.
Africa Oil Corp. continues to seize the vast opportunities Namibia has to offer. Earlier this summer, the company signed a letter of intent with Azinam Limited, a subsidiary of Eco Atlantic, to acquire a 6.25% stake in Block 3B/4B in the Orange Basin, increasing Africa Oil Corp.’s total stake in the block to 26.25%. With the block’s proximity and similar geographical structure to the Venus, Graff, La Rona, and Jonker discoveries in the basin, it’s a logical move.
At the same time, Africa Oil Corp. is successfully operating producing assets in deep water offshore Nigeria, where the company has a debt-free balance sheet and a robust portfolio of production and development assets.
As recently as May, Africa Oil Corp. announced that partner Total Energies was renewing Oil Mining License 130 in Nigeria. Africa Oil has an 8% interest in the license through its 50% shareholding in Prime Oil & Gas.
“The renewal of OML 130 is very good news for the Company and its shareholders,” Hill said at the time. He noted that the license “includes attractive growth opportunities such as the undeveloped Preowei oil discovery, which we can now take forward towards a final investment decision. Additional opportunities include step-out exploration and appraisal drilling, that should support production rates over the coming years.”
For many, Africa Oil Corp. represents a new era in the continent’s oil and gas industry, one with an increasingly important role for independents that recognize the tremendous opportunities our continent’s vast oil and gas resources offer. With international oil and gas majors divesting their African interests — often in attempts to decrease their overall emissions — independents have been stepping up to fill the gap.
More to Say About Africa
Hill, who will be joining Africa Oil Corp.’s board as a director, will continue to make a positive impact on Africa after he steps down from his current position. Keith is not leaving the scene. It is not in his character. I expect him to continue discussions and advocacy about investing in African energy and making energy poverty history. He will champion issues that are important African energy industry stakeholders and we will continue to value Hill’s experience, perspectives, and advice. Even as Hill moves on to another chapter, we don’t expect that to change.