Nigeria’s crude oil export operation has suffered a serious setback following a major crack-up of a giant underwater pipeline at the Forcados export terminal.
Following the incident, crude oil lifting has now been suspended at that platform, officials said.
The pipeline, described as a big artery in the nation’s oil production was said to have suffered a huge rupture under circumstances that are at the moment still hazy.
Nigeria is already bleeding from the impact of low oil prices, with revenue dipping month after month.
”With export now cut as a result of the incident, oil revenue will descend even lower until the pipeline is fixed,” an insider at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation told PREMIUM TIMES.
Industry experts say repairing the pipeline might cost the country as much as 100 million dollars.
Sabotage by Niger Delta militants is completely ruled out but the same cannot be said at the moment of rogue elements within the system who are known to have in the past orchestrated similar damages in the hope of benefitting from the repairs and clean-up contracts that must follow.
Forcados terminal in Delta State is one of Nigeria’s biggest terminals with capacity to export about 400,000 barrels of oil a day.
Illegal interference with pipelines, with attendant leaks, has always dwindled crude oil receipts into Forcados, a terminal operated by the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC).
Oil majors most hit by disasters at this terminal include Shell and Septlat.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that the latest incident at Forcados occurred about 10.55pm last Saturday but it wasn’t until Sunday that Shell discovered a spill.
Forcados is made up of two parts: namely the Tank Farm which receives crude oil produced from oil wells in Delta, Ondo, Edo and parts of Bayelsa States, and the Crude Oil Loading Platform where ships must come to lift crude.
The affected pipeline links the tank farm and the platform. Insiders say it is a very mighty pipe on the waterbed going to the sea. The ruptured section of this key pipeline is located at Tokebeleu, near Ojulagha, an Ijaw village in Delta State.
In a written response to PREMIUM TIMES enquiry, Precious Okolobo, Media Relations Manager of Shell, said his company was already investigating the source of a crude oil spill observed on water around Forcados Terminal on Sunday February 14.
He said the initial investigation would enable the company to quickly determine what suitable response was further needed.
According to Mr. Okolobo, Shell’s joint venture and third party production into the terminal has been suspended as a precautionary measure while the company’s Emergency Response and Oil Response teams have been activated to manage the incident.
In what appears as a large-scale disaster management, Shell said booms and other oil containment resources were being deployed to the area to try to stop the spread of spilled oil.
“The support of industry group, Clean Nigeria Associates (CNA), has been enlisted for a comprehensive response to the spill,” Mr Okolobo said.
”The relevant authorities including security agencies have been informed of the incident, preparatory to a joint investigation visit which will determine the cause and volume of oil spilled.”
The spokesperson for the NNPC, Ohi Alegbe, declined to comment for this story.