Nigeria’s President vows to ‘break bottlenecks’ holding back UTM’s floating LNG project

Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu on Wednesday met the backers of what is set to be Nigeria first floating liquefied natural gas project, endorsed the development and offered to “break bottlenecks”.

Lagos-based UTM Offshore, founded by Julius Rone, has commissioned engineering studies from JGC, Technip Energies and KBR on a newbuild 1.2 million tonnes per annum FLNG vessel, using gas feedstock from the Yoho field.

Cairo-based Afreximbank has offered up to co-finance a project that could come online in late 2026, at the earliest, with Vitol lined up as an LNG buyer.

Tinubu’s official endorsement of the project this early into his presidency is a welcome boost for UTM which has yet to agree terms on buying gas from Yoho given ExxonMobil will soon exit the asset and leave in entirely in the hands of state-owned NNPC Ltd.

At Aso Villa, his official residence in Abuja, Tinubu received a joint delegation from UTM, Technip and JGC as well as the French and Japanese ambassadors to Nigeria, and vowed to help expedite the FLNG project which will help exploit just a small volume of Nigeria’s vast quantities of untapped gas.

“We have abundance of gas. However, the extractive industry needs the injection of your kind of partnership to be able to promote growth,” he told his guests.

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“It is a must (project) for any government to support. Let me know if there are any bottlenecks, we will break them,” said Tinubu.

UTM chief executive Rone said the FLNG scheme aligns with the president’s promise to develop Nigerian gas resources as a source of sustainable energy and economic development for the country.

He said when the facility comes online, potentially in the fourth quarter of 2026, it will be able to export 1.2 million tpa of LNG and produce 300,000 tpa of liquified petroleum gas for use in the domestic market, meeting about 25% of local demand.

Rone said the president’s full support for the project offers allows UTM “to continue to invest our money” and offers assurance for our investor.

In her remarks, France’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Emmanuelle Blatmann, said the project would advance the economic diversification agenda of the Tinubu’s government, stressing that gas from Nigeria would be viable source of supply for Europe “and will go a long way at stabilising the price of cooking gas”.

He said the project would create about 3000 direct jobs and 4000 indirect jobs, in addition to value creation along the LPG supply chain.

Closure of a financing deal with Afreximbank is expected towards the end of this year.