The Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) shut down the Soku Gas Plant last month as a safety measure, after a leak was reported on a pipeline that conveys gas from the facility to NLNG plant at Bonny.
The action will ensure the line is de-pressurised to enable a project team to investigate the cause of the leak and carry out repairs.
SPDC confirmed the leak on December 15, 2009. The line is in remote area, and access control measures have been put in place. NLNG and all relevant government agencies have been informed of the leak.
Soku Gas Plant resumed operations on October 15, 2009 after the repair of a pipeline damaged by condensate thieves, and completion of a subsequent spiking project. The line that is currently affected is different from the one that was repaired.
Soku Gas Plant has an installed capacity of 1.1bcf/day and 30kb/d condensate.
The Soku gas plant was commissioned in 1999 and employs around 150 people.
It is located 40 kilometres (km) southwest of Port Harcourt and has three main host communities nearbyÂ Soku, Elem Sangama, and Oluasiri.
It produces gas and condensate, which drops out as a liquid in the gas plant. Soku supplies 40% of the gas required by Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Ltd (NLNG).
The company explained that thieves steal condensate by drilling into the pipeline – about 10 inches in diameter – and attaching a hose to siphon it away. This is called hot tapping. It is highly dangerous.
â€œIt can cause explosions, fires and spills that damage the environment. Unfortunately there is a ready local market driving this lethal activity: condensate can be used as an alternative to petrol in vehicles.
In the past, illegal taps around Soku were fewer and located kilometres away from the plant. In 2007 we removed around 150 taps. In recent months the number of illegal taps has risen rapidly and they are getting much closer to the gas plant.â€
In August 2008 alone the company removed more than 50 connections less than 1 km from the gas plant – some right up to the perimeter fence where thieves can take advantage of higher pipeline pressure to steal more condensate.
On average there is now one fire a week caused by thefts. Several thieves have died from the fires, though we cannot confirm exactly how many.