Natural gas deposits in Nigeria currently form one of the most significant resources for the country. Nigeria ranks amongst the top producers and exporters of the commodity, with a 4 percent GDP contribution coming from natural gas. Given the country’s immense oil production, analysts and experts point at the possibility of the country producing the same, or even exceeding the current oil production in as far as its liquefied natural gas deposits are concerned. According to the latest estimates by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the LNG reserves in Nigeria could be 184tcf, which if broken further translates to 95tcf and 89tcf of associated and non-associated gas respectively. These huge LNG reserves in Nigeria are the seventh-largest in the world.
Despite this positive discovery and statistics, Nigeria has not undertaken to explore her natural wealth, and only oil explorations have been ongoing, occasionally bumping into the LNG reserves in the process. The failure to concentrate on LNG exploration has seen the country miss out on substantial wealth that would have otherwise been achieved from the exportation and sale of LNG. The underutilization of LNG has been the main reason behind Nigeria’s massive gas flaring instances. In particular, the oil fields do not have the necessary infrastructure to produce as well as market LNG, which further worsens the flaring during oil exploration. Estimates produced by the World Bank-affiliated Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership (GFRP), Nigeria has since been trailing Russia as the world’s second LNG source in terms of gas flaring, a condition that has been persistent for more than five years now.
Government anti-flaring efforts
The Federal Government of Nigeria has been putting in place corrective measures to ensure that it puts in check the gas flaring. For instance, the government had set a deadline of 2008 for all oil companies to stop gas flaring, which had risen to an alarming 38 percent by the year 2000. However, little was achieved even as Nigeria continued to record gas flaring rates of up to 11 percent as recently as 2012. Some of the corrective measures that have been instituted by the government include the imposition of punitive damages to the oil companies, particularly the multinationals operating in the country. A “Gas Master Plan” was taken up by the government back in 2009 in an attempt to enhance the development of pipelines and oversee the construction of gas plants. The overall aim of the initiative was to lower incidences of gas flaring. However, these plans have suffered a huge blow following the insecurity that continues to mar the oil-rich Niger Delta. The international oil companies (IOC’s) have since been unable to pursue the construction and development of necessary infrastructure to foster gas monetization.
The challenges that continue to bedevil Nigeria’s oil sector, particularly the underdeveloped LNG sub-sector, date back to 1960 soon after the country’s independence from Great Britain. The government failed to invest in the construction of LNG plants and did little to monetize the enormous gas reserves that the country sits on. In comparison, Nigeria’s competitors in the LNG global market, particularly countries in Europe (North Sea) fast-tracked their investment in the sector and presently lie ahead in terms of the respective investments that they have undertaken. In the period between the 1960s and 1970s, the Nigerian authorities literally lost the chance to establish significant LNG plants in the country’s enormous landscape that is endowed with a significant volume of LNG deposits. This explains the current situation of the country, with only 22mmtpa being produced.
Nigeria continues to suffer following the failure of past regimes to make the right decisions concerning developing her LNG sector. In the power sector, for instance, Nigeria continues to experience major disruptions owing to the unreliable, and in some instances, nonexistent gas supplies. The power disruptions are affecting the economic growth rate as businesses and firms are forced to make do with other expensive alternatives. Given the massive presence of LNG deposits in Nigeria, it beats logic that the country could still suffer from intermittent power failures. Matters are worsened more by the fact that there is still little effort that the government is putting in place to address the situation, and the power situation continues to deteriorate with each passing day.
LNG Global Situation and Production
As newcomers enter the LNG global export market with verve and seek to exploit the monetary benefit that comes with it, Nigeria continues to lag behind as it falls in the production ranking. Currently, the country only accounts for 8 percent of the total global production of the commodity, down from a previous 10 percent market share. Qatar and Australia currently boast of the biggest global market share of the commodity, with Qatar improving from a previous production amount of 20mmtpa to a superior 80mmtpa volume. Equally, Australia has registered marked improvement from its production, currently 81mmtpa from a previous low of 20mmtpa. As these countries have worked towards enhancing their productions, Nigeria’s production has only remained at the paltry 20mmtpa mark. The most amazing scenario is the fact that Australia’s LNG deposits only represent about 60 percent of what Nigeria is endowed with. Nigeria’s gas industry has been dogged with poor pricing, insufficient legal frameworks, lack of fiscal terms, and insufficient funds injected into the industry.
The Nigerian Gas Master Plan (NGMP) was a strategy of the government that sought to maximize the country’s overall gas resources. The Nigerian constitution recognizes the Federal Government as the chief custodian of the petroleum resource that is found in the country. The Petroleum Act governs all the activities related to production, exploration, regulation, as well as distribution of the commodity. Exploration has to be done after the “Minister for Petroleum” has authorized as empowered under the “Petroleum Act”.
The government has drafted “the petroleum and drilling regulation” to make sure that oil exploration and subsequent production are properly regulated. This legislation follows the stipulations set under the “Petroleum Act”.
Licensing is handled under the “Oil Pipelines Act”, while “Oil Pipelines regulations” regulate permitting processes. These processes mainly include construction, operation, and repairs of gas pipelines. There are two Acts that govern the taxation of natural gas revenue. These are: “the Petroleum Profit Tax Act” and the “Income Tax Act”.
The “National Environmental Standards and Regulations and Enforcement Agency Act (NASA)” is one of the Acts that govern the environment. Other Acts include the “Environmental Impact Assessment Act (EIA) and the Environmental Guidelines and Standards for the Petroleum Industry in Nigeria (EGASPIN), Hydrocarbon Oil Refineries Act, Associated Gas re-injection Act, and The Land Use Act”.
There are several regulations that are involved under the NESREA, among them the National Effluent Limitation Regulations. The statute aims at making sure that anti-pollution equipment is adopted in the industry to be able to handle effluents effectively. It is quite debatable whether these laws are actually implemented or mere writings and documents that have been covered up by dust.
An unfavorable environment has caused some of the oil companies/investors to pull out bits as other African countries have made discoveries of petroleum. There has been an emergence of novel oil and gas producers globally, thereby reducing the chances of Nigeria getting a lot of dollars for oil exploration even though the country is a significant producer of the product.
These developments are already impacting negatively on the development of gas, with revenue set to decline even further as a result. In June 2013, for instance, Chevron Nigeria sold 40 percent of its share in its oil blocks, including OML 52, 53, and 55. These blocks lie in the oil-rich Niger Delta. It is worth noting that Chevron is Nigeria’s third-largest producer of gas. The decision by the company followed another similar one in which the company disposed of its stake in OML 83 and 85. The timing of these developments is particularly worrying, coming at a time when the already underdeveloped gas sector in the country requires all necessary assistance to put it in good shape. This is particularly needed urgently given the increasing competition in the sector. Other significant players in this sector involve Shell Petroleum Development Company, currently the leading producer of the commodity in Nigeria, followed by Exxon Mobil. Others are Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC), in third position, and Elf Nigeria, which marks the top four producers of LNG in the country.
The global demand for LNG outpaces supply. This implies that the Nigerian LNG has a ready market both locally and internationally. This market situation for LNG has influenced oil companies in Nigeria, including the BG Group to exploit new ways of expanding production in order to take advantage of the high market demand.
Nigerian producers of LNG are particularly targeting to retain high-value markets of LNG in the world, including the Asia-Pacific market, and improve participation within the commodity’s downstream segment value chain. The expanded production of the country’s LNG to the current 22 mtpa annual capacity, up from 8 mtpa in 1999, has seen consumers’ confidence in Nigeria develop. This latest figure represents 10 percent of the total global supply of LNG, which ranks Nigeria as an important industry player.
Throughout time, Nigeria has been aspiring to fully meet the LNG demand present in the Atlantic Basin. This target, however, has been challenged following Atlantic Basin’s changing market conditions. As a result, Nigeria has been focusing on a more broadened market strategy that does not only consider the Atlantic Basin as its center of attention. The need for diversification has particularly influenced Nigeria’s efforts towards developing a strategy that will in turn formulate a platform upon which Pacific region LNG off-takers could get involved. The reason for integrating the LNG off-takers in this region is to have them participate in greenfield projects that involve LNG, such as the OK and Brass LNG projects.
Potential firms will have the initiative to be fully and directly committed to the novel project due to the arrangement. These firms will also be encouraged to become long-term investors, in addition to being LNG off-takers over a long period. In turn, the arrangement will develop opportunities for base-load sales contracts that touch on LNG to Asia. The Brass project is thought to have sufficient potential to spur growth in LNG provision for export to Japan as per the current predictions.
Nigeria is a committed partner with Japan in realizing Japan’s energy supply. The Brass project has, therefore, recruited Japanese companies such as LNG Japan and Itochu to boost this strategic partnership. The Japanese companies involved in this partnership are equity partners and off-takers. Significant portions of the LNG are intended for delivery in the Japanese market.
The Nigerian government has since abolished regulatory measures as a means of encouraging the growth of the commodities market, especially on the domestic front. This mainly targets to encourage Nigerian investors in the sector to enter partnership deals with International Oil Companies.
Changes in Price
The prices for Nigerian LNG have been fluctuating over the years owing to various factors, chief among them being the global demand level for the commodity. The USA has remained to be one of Nigeria’s important export markets for LNG. In 2000, one thousand cubic feet of LNG from Nigeria were sold at $4.37, with the price rising in the following year to reach the $5.56 mark for the same quantity of the commodity. In 2002, however, the average LNG prices fell to $3.21 per one thousand cubic feet, before rising again to reach the $6.20 mark in 2004. During this decade, the highest prices were recorded in 2005 where one thousand cubic feet of LNG were charged at $10.11.
In 2010, LNG prices dropped significantly, being the first year in this decade to reach a low figure of $4.39. However, this price marked an improvement from the previous average price of $3.56 in 2009. The year 2011 witnessed a more than the doubled figure in prices, with the commodity attaining an average price figure of $9.31. The graph below depicts the average price changes of LNG imported into the US market from Nigeria.
Nigeria currently employs some of the latest technological drilling techniques in the oil sector to maximize the results and general performance. In the exploration front, part of the technology used by the companies involves high-resolution seismic technology, where enhanced 2-D seismic, as well as 3-D seismic technologies, have both been employed to help in the revelation of prospects deep within the earth’s crust.
International oil company Shell has introduced horizontal drilling in the exploration and extraction of oil products, including LNG in Nigeria. In adopting the horizontal drilling mechanism, the companies employ top drive drilling in collaboration with drill pipes to help in the extraction process. These modernized drilling techniques currently being adopted in Nigeria have enabled the oil firms to successfully operate in deep overpressured temperatures as well as working through deeper reservoirs.
Another technique being used for drilling purposes is referred to as secondary recovery. In this technique, which is mainly applied by Chevron in its exploration and extraction efforts in Nigeria, the company injects water into the underground oil reservoirs to help in the lifting of oil towards the surface. This technology is mainly used in oil fields determined to have low pressure that cannot be used efficiently to lift the oil. Chevron’s secondary recovery technique is currently being employed in Merton and Delta South fields, which have declined natural pressures.
Relation to key project BRASS & OLOKOLA
The Brass liquefied natural gas is situated in the Brass area of Bayelsa State. The project is particularly looked at as an ideal for converting flared gas, whose significant amount has in the past been going into waste, into natural gas that can be sold for economic benefits to the country. The Brass project is of great viability given that its location is near the raw material that is required during the running of the plant; that is, natural gas.
The plant is located centrally within the Niger Delta, which is also ranked third globally in terms of its size. Much of the LNG to be extracted from this site is set for the export market, with the main destinations being the USA and Europe. The production will be done jointly by partners, with global Oil Company Total set to account for up to one-third of the total production, estimated to be 570 MCF/d for close to 20 years of its existence.
The Olokola LNG project has its production capacity estimated at a capacity of 22 million tons each year. The project involves four trains, with the main players, including the Nigerian State, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, and the BG group for the United Kingdom. Although the Olokola project was never meant for gas production initially, the final decision to develop and pursue it was based on its deep-water coast in addition to the fact that the site was initially a free zone.
The drilling and exploration statistics and figures are not as convincing as would be anticipated given Nigeria’s global standing in the oil industry. Nigeria has performed dismally in terms of attracting an equal share of monetary benefits gained from exploration globally, despite having immense crude oil deposits. This ongoing situation in the country is likely to affect state revenues in the future.
Nigeria’s oil sector is also grappling with high political risk following the emergence of criminal gangs that have threatened to take over the control of the oil-rich Niger Delta. These developments have scared investors, particularly major foreign oil multinationals, which have the capacity and ability to explore the full potential of the oil resource in the country. With the new promising oil prospects in other parts of Africa enjoying lower risk potentials, such as Ghana, Uganda, Mozambique, and Kenya, the major oil firms are shifting their concentrations from Nigeria.
These developments are taking away the investment dollars owned by the current Nigerian players elsewhere. Other factors also combine to affect the quality of oil sector explorations in Nigeria, which gradually contribute to less and less exploitation of the overall crude oil resources in the country. For instance, the Nigerian state of affairs is one that is characterized by bureaucracy, security premium, lack of transparency where rounds are involved, and uncertain fiscal terms, among many other challenges. These barriers have dissuaded quality industry players from venturing into the country to explore its crude oil resources.
In the long run, Nigeria is losing out on its actual position as an important global player in the exploration and extraction of crude oil products, including liquefied natural gas. The effects of this scenario include a high-poverty index and the failure by the country to satisfactorily serve its own domestic demand for electricity and other energy sources. With these challenges and problems addressed fully, Nigeria will be able to benefit from its vast resources of hydrocarbons and transform the country into a modern society with improved infrastructure and advanced living conditions.
II PBILL and Other References
The Petroleum Industry Bill was introduced to establish a regulatory framework, related regulatory authorities, as well as institutions to take charge of the petroleum industry in Nigeria. Part of the role includes establishing guidelines to be followed for the downstream and upstream operations in order to achieve the desired purposes and results.
Among the fundamental objectives of the bill include vesting ownership of the natural gas and petroleum to the Nigerian state, which takes charge on behalf of the masses. The bill stipulates the allocation of acreage to qualified firms that apply for lease or contract in as far as the exploration and extraction of the commodity are concerned.
Government participation is enumerated in the bill, where the minister in charge of petroleum is conferred upon with the powers to grant licenses as well as sanction leases following a recommendation from the Director General. The Petroleum Bill also mentions environmental aspects and the quality of air emissions, with the Federal Government being required to honor existing international environmental obligations. The bill also highlights the issue of community development. It is the mandate of the federal authorities to enhance peace and see to it that development is taking place in the areas where oil and gas are produced. In doing this, the government will help in improving the negative effects that result from petroleum activities.
How PBILL Addresses LNG Underdevelopment
The most significant objective of the bill is to enhance the production and sale of LNG to boost Nigeria’s revenues. This is intended to be achieved by collecting the associated gas and subsequently processing it into LNG. In addition, the bill seeks to increase the participation of local communities living around the Niger Delta, especially through employment, in order to win their full support. It is worth pointing out that the Niger Delta has in recent years experienced increased militia activities as groups of local communities object to what they term as being ignored by the authorities and the oil companies. The new bill requires that both the local and international oil companies employ individuals from the local community so that the locals can retain a significant amount of the revenue from the oil.
The bill also sets up a Petroleum Host Community Fund, PHCF, whose main role is to take cognizance of the aspirations as well as yearnings of the host. In yet another move by the government to end the hostility in the Niger Delta, which has slowed down investment efforts by the oil companies, the PHC fund seeks to address the perpetual neglect that the region has suffered. With all these welfare structures in place, it is the anticipation of the Nigerian government that more investors will be attracted to undertake serious LNG exploitation and processing in order to benefit the country.
Several issues have been raised following the enactment of the Petroleum Industry Bill, with the main shareholders pointing at the challenges that are posed by it. The international oil companies involved in the exploration and extraction of the commodity, including Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell, Addax Petroleum, Agip, and Total, have pointed out at the fiscal terms of the bill, terming it extremely uncompetitive. These terms have been described as having the capacity to dampen deepwater projects in the future. Another issue that has been identified is the lack of incentives provided by the PIB, which players indicate that it could fail to support the development of gas projects in the country. In particular, analysts indicate that the Petroleum Industry Bill’s gas fiscals fail to offer any kind of encouragement for the establishment of necessary investments. The inclusion of the Domestic Gas Supply Obligation (DGSO) has been singled out as lacking the necessary basis to address the fact that Nigeria faces an infrastructural deficit, and faces a challenge caused by customers’ inability to acquire gas volumes.
It has been noted that the PIB introduces a new production rate that ranges between 5 and 12.5%. There is also a rate that is based on price, and it goes up to 21% on the higher side. The fiscal terms imposed by PIB have equally been noted to introduce a Nigerian Hydrocarbon Tax to the tune of 50 percent, in addition to a Company Income Tax of 30 percent. This, the industry players point out, introduces heavy taxation that totals 80 percent as opposed to the practice in the past, where only 30 percent was charged for Company Income Tax.
The international oil companies operating in Nigeria are also up in arms over the new PIB’s tax credit proposals. The contention cited by the IOCs over this provision is the fact that it seeks to introduce a tax holiday that will run for five years, particularly targeting the companies that target the domestic market in their supply of gas. This has been compared to the current terms, which extend tax holidays exclusively to the downstream gas.
Demand, Policy, and PIB Issues
The PIB has been the main reason behind the slumped LNG production in recent times. The oil companies, particularly multinational companies, have been protesting the new taxes that the bill has introduced. The IOCs have since scaled down their production, with several companies seeking to explore other oil fields outside Nigeria44. The altercation within the industry has affected gas production at a time when the demand is still on the rise. For instance, the IOCs note that the PBill does not provide any incentives on gas production55, which in essence implies that the firms will continue concentrating their efforts on oil exploration, at the expense of increasing LNG production.
These developments point at PIB’s failure to achieve its intended objective of enhancing LNG production. Already, the production has been affected while the demand continues to increase. The failure could only worsen an already very bad situation, with the Nigerian economy set to suffer even more as businesses will continue lacking power for an elongated period of time.
Despite the criticism leveled against the PIB, numerous areas are addressed by the new law to the advantage of the overall oil sector in Nigeria. Firstly, the bill seeks to restructure the framework of institutions that are charged with the responsibility of managing the oil industry in the country. The restructuring is through establishing and re-establishing various institutions, authorities, funds, and companies within the oil industry. These institutions and authorities include the Petroleum Technical Bureau, the Minister in charge of petroleum resources, industry regulators, and the Petroleum Training Institute.
The three funds proposed to help in the management of the oil sector in the country include the Petroleum Host Communities Fund, the Petroleum Technology Fund, and the Petroleum Equalisation Fund. The funds are intended to contribute to the profits gained from the sale of oil deposits. These profits are shared by the immediate community, as well as other petroleum stakeholders higher in the chain. The funds also find use in empowering personnel in the sector through offering training to employees and management.
The PIB also seeks to deregulate the downstream petroleum sector. This objective mainly targets the gas sector, with the bill proposing the establishment of liberalized and deregulated downstream petroleum markets. PIB realizes this objective by allowing for competition in the market. However, PIB also ensures sufficient and affordable energy, while letting third parties in the chain access the market. The Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Agency is charged with the responsibility of maintaining a strategic petroleum product’s stock. The lessees of the petroleum mining leases producing gas will be required to reserve some specific quantities of the gas produced for purposes of supplying the domestic market.
The proposed framework offers fresh taxes. However, investors will not be at a loss since “effective tax rates” will most likely come down after making the proposed tax adjustments. The end result will be a fair deduction value as set out in the upcoming bill. Equally, the investors stand a chance to benefit once the application of the proposed production allowances is implemented.
Specific Issues and Project
The sole root for all risks, even the risk of future rates on tariffs being at risk has been cited as the existence of a deregulated market. This is more relevant when it comes to downstream facilities that are at the disposal of third parties. The proposed bill will tackle these issues by providing guidelines on the amount to price oil products and the tariffs to be attached to the same. The ‘Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Agency’ will set the tariffs that will be payable by third-party partners in the petroleum sector. The Agency will apply the tariff-fixing criteria to set this rate. Alternatively, the determination of tariffs may be through a proposal forwarded by the licensees prior to its approval by the agency.
The proposed tax system under PIB has also continued to be the subject of concerns raised particularly by the IOCs involved in the exploration and processing of oil in Nigeria. Nevertheless, discrimination is highly condemned in the bill. In this regard, no company is singled out when applying tax rates, whether the company is domestic or foreign. The bill, instead, suggests that the hydrocarbon tax will be imposed uniformly on all firms dealing in oil and gas. This will be done during each accounting period. Thus, all the companies involved in upstream operations, irrespective of their ownership or the size of land under their control will be expected to honor and pay up the hydrocarbon tax.
The Nigerian oil sector is one that is deeply marred with acts of corruption and other secret deals that do not pass the accountability test. The formulation and enactment of the PIB were, among other things, targeted towards addressing the serious lack of accountability that plague the industry as a whole.
One of the important fundamentals of the PIB involves achieving transparency, good governance, as well as sustainable national development. The State, by virtue of having been vested upon with the right of ownership of the petroleum resources in the country, is required to achieve greater accountability in its overall administration of the resources. The Minister in charge of Petroleum resources has the power to issue licenses and leases to companies that meet the legal requirements as stipulated by the law.
Terms and conditions have been specified, which generally guide the minister during the granting of licenses or leases concerning the oil industry. The terms and conditions also specify the actions and decisions that are within the purview of the minister as concerns the undertaking of exploitation exercises of natural-gas deposits in the country. Overly, while the Minister in charge of the oil resources enjoys powers to act on the behalf of the State, these powers have been curtailed by overlying regulations, which seek to achieve utmost accountability.
Although the government is still a key player in the oil sector and industry in Nigeria, PIB has particularly sought to limit the government’s participation in the running and general administration of the industry.
PIB’s other important reason for the formulation was to ensure that the government of Nigeria enhances its ability to maximize the revenues collected from the oil industry. To achieve this objective, PIB has sought to revise royalties and taxes to be paid up by the players, as well as introduce changes in the fiscal regime.
Through the fiscal provisions, PIB proposes that players operating in the upstream, midstream, as well as downstream products, will be required to pay rents, company income tax, the Nigerian hydrocarbon tax, as well as royalties. These forms of taxes, both the old ones and the newly introduced ones, enhance the maximization of the revenue share for the government.
New flexible fiscal provisions have also been introduced through the PIB, which seek to enhance revenue collection. The new fiscal provisions guarantee optimization of returns by simplifying the revenue collection exercise. The PIB also targets to spur investment by virtue of its revised fiscal regime, where the Bill implements a fiscal framework that is gradual and encourages supplementary investment within the petroleum industry. It is also critical to point out the efforts by the PIB that target to develop the gas market even further. By developing the domestic gas market, Nigeria would benefit from the multiplier effect attained by its gas resources. PIB will specifically enhance natural-gas development and production through its inherent regulations that encourage the production of the commodity and its downstream consumption, for power production, cement, and fertilizer manufacturing, among other uses.
The NLNG Act confers pioneer status of the liquefied natural gas on the NLNG Ltd, which exempts it from paying up certain taxes while providing the Federal Government’s assurance to the shareholders of the company. The S.3 assurance and guarantee that are contained in the Second Schedule, for example, states as follows:
“Without prejudice to any other provision contained herein, neither the company nor its shareholders in their capacity as shareholders in the company shall in any way be subject to new laws, regulations, tax duties imposts, or charges of whatever nature that are not applicable generally to companies incorporated in Nigeria or to shareholders in the companies incorporate in Nigeria respectively.”
The NLNG Act has a stipulated tax relief period, which commences on the first day the company begins production and continues for a ten-year period. However, this tax relief period can terminate only after five years in case the price of the cumulative average sales reaches $3 mmbtu for liquefied natural gas. This is per calculations done to this Act as contained in the First Schedule, where such calculations shall be done annually during every anniversary date.
The players shall be liable to the company’s tax, except for provisions contained in this Act. The tax obligations for companies are contained in the Companies Income Tax Act. ‘Interests payable on loans’ by the company shall be fully deductible for tax purposes. This will apply to both instances where the payment could be to shareholders or to third parties, including subsidiaries of shareholders.
Projected Impact of the PBill on Global Prices
With all the stakeholders in the Nigerian oil and gas sector failing to strike the same accord following the introduction of the PIB, it is apparent that the global prices of the commodity will increase. Although Nigeria’s gas exploration has been poor over the years, the country’s 20mmtpa production has been plugging a serious gap in addressing the global demands for the commodity. However, the ongoing altercations in the industry could lower this production to a great deal, further harming the global export market. In turn, this could result in increased prices owing to the increasing demand and a shortfall in production.
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