Shell said the fire was caused by sabotage.
Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, SPDC, said on Thursday that it took precautionary measures to check the escalation of damage on the 150,000 barrels per day capacity Trans Niger Pipeline (TNP) following an explosion and a fire incident.
The incident occurred at a point along the pipeline network where vandals had sabotaged and used to siphon crude oil along the 28-inch section of the facility at Bodo West in Ogoniland.
The location of the explosion and fire, like some others in Ogoniland, has been notorious for crude theft as residents step up their campaign to see Shell, Nigeria’s oldest and largest multi-national oil exploration and production company, withdraw from the area.
Shell’s Corporate Media Relations Manager, Tony Okonedo, said that prior to the incident, the company had previously shut down the pipeline for repairs and maintenance when its team of engineers on routine monitoring operations had discovered several illegal connections used for crude theft.
”The 24-inch pipeline had now been closed as a precautionary response to the fire. This means that the entire TNP system, comprising the 28” and 24” pipelines have been shut-in,” Mr. Okonedo said. “The 24” TNP will be reopened when it is safe to do so, while the 28” TNP will remain shut-in until the fire has been extinguished, and investigation and damage assessment completed.”
“This is another sad reminder of the tragic consequences of crude theft in the region,” the Managing Director of SPDC and Country Chair of Shell Companies in Nigeria, Mutiu Sunmonu, said.
“Unknown persons continue to reconnect illegal bunkering hoses at Bodo West even as our pipeline team were removing crude theft points. It was therefore not surprising that the fire occurred from the continuing illegal bunkering even as a previous crude oil theft point was being repaired by the team.
“So far, there is practically no spill from this event as the oil is burning off. What is visible in the water is from an earlier oil spill which was also as a result of oil theft.
“The explosion also triggered a fire on a nearby barge. Crude theft continues to pose significant challenges to people, the environment and the local and national economy, and all stakeholders must work together to stop this criminal activity.”
He said a trunk of the pipeline, which carries 150,000 barrels a day of oil through the Niger Delta to Bonny terminal, suffered a spill early last week, but went in flames on Wednesday.
“The fire is on. I can see the smoke in the air. To the best of his knowledge, the oil is still flowing,” he said.
The Chairman, Council of Chiefs, Sylvester Kogbara, and Elders of Bodo, a community in the Niger Delta, had earlier raised an alarm on the inferno at the site of the pipeline, which transports crude oil through the Niger Delta to the Bonny terminal, days after Shell said it would not repair the broken pipeline.
The Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action, the Nigerian branch of Friends of the Earth, Godwin Ojo, confirmed the explosion on the pipeline, Wednesday, in Bodo, but said he did not know if any deaths were recorded.
With the shut-in of operations through the pipeline, Nigeria’s crude oil export capacity risks being impacted negatively by a reduction of at least 150, 000 barrels per day.