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Nigeria pipeline theft risks 140,000 b/d - Shell

6 Feb 2012, 1.40 pm GMT

Nigeria pipeline theft risks 140,000 b/d - Shell

Johannesburg, 6 February (Argus) – Rising crude theft on the new Nembe Creek oil pipeline in Nigeria threatens 140,000 b/d of the firm's oil exports to the Bonny terminal, pipeline operator Shell said today.

The new Nembe creek pipeline was installed 16 months ago to replace a previous pipeline that was also heavily damaged by thieves who siphoned off oil and condensate.

But the new pipeline has been hit regularly by thieves.

“The level of crude theft at [the pipeline] can no longer be tolerated,” said Shell managing director in Nigeria Mutiu Sunmonu .

Shell was forced to shut down the pipeline last December, resulting in a force majeure being place on Bonny Light exports. This impacted around 70,000 b/d of output, Shell said.

Crude thieves took advantage of the repair window to install more 'bunkering points' and fix hoses to take crude to sea vessels and illegal refineries, the firm said. The vessels transport the stolen crude to waiting motherships while the refined product is sold locally.

Helicopter overflights of the area by the firm today had confirmed thriving crude theft activities at Tora Manifold, Santa Barbara River, SEGO Manfiold, Awoba, Krakrama, Bille, Cawthorne Channel and Alakiri - all in Rivers and Bayelsa states. Some other connections were made directly to wellheads.

“It is difficult to sustain production in the circumstance as we have to shut down when a facility trips and fix the cause before restarting. This happened three times just between the 26 and 30 January,” Sunmonu said.

Shell has increased surveillance of the route to detect crude theft activities and respond early to spills.

“But what is urgently needed is robust intervention at federal, state and local government levels. We need increased patrols of creeks and waterways, removal of illegal offtake points and dismantling of illegal refineries,” Sunmonu said.

Nigeria's main rebel group Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) claimed on 5 February that it had carried out an attack on the Nembe-Brass section of the crude pipeline which is operated by Italy's Eni.

The attack resulted in the loss of 4,000 b/d of equity crude, Eni said.

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