June 19, 2009

MEND hits Shell’s pipeline 106,000bpd shut in

By Hector Igbikiowubo
MILITANT group, Movement for Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has claimed it attacked, Wednesday, the Shell Petroleum Development Company joint venture operated Trans-Ramos pipeline in Bayelsa State potentially shutting in more of Nigeria’s crude oil production.

The SPDC JV operated Trans-Ramos pipeline pumps about 106,000 barrels of crude oil per day and has been attacked severally since 2005 forcing the company to shut in output owing to security concerns.

In a statement released yesterday, MEND claimed it had sabotaged a Shell oil pipeline, the latest in a string of attacks tagged ‘Hurricane Piper Alpha’, the group’s response against the country’s military and oil industry.

“M|END, in furtherance of Hurricane Piper Alpha destroyed with high explosives a major crude oil trunk line in Bayelsa State belonging to Shell,” the group said in a statement.

The management of SPDC, in a statement confirmed the development, yesterday, adding that relevant government agencies had been informed and that a joint investigation visit was being planned.

“SPDC operated joint venture can confirm the Trans Ramos pipeline at Aghoro-2 community in Bayelsa state was attacked last night (June 17). Some oil production has been shut in to avoid potential environmental impact. The relevant government agencies have been informed, and a joint investigation visit is planned,” a statement released by Precious Okolobo, one of the company’s spokespersons disclosed.

In its statement, MEND said the damaged pipeline was connected to the Tunu, Opukusu and Ugbotubu flow stations, which feeds into the Forcados export terminal.

Shell understandably extended the force majeure on Forcados offtake programme for the remainder of June and July, citing damage to the pipeline from the Chanomi Creek as reason for the action.

A statement from the company on Tuesday explained that the force majeure takes effect 18:00 hrs (June 16th).

“This is as a result of deferment caused by damage to Trans Forcados Trunkline at Chanomi Creek in the Western operations. Investigation into the incident is ongoing, and we are also taking steps to repair the line and resume production,” the statement read.

A large part of Forcados output and export was hit by militant attacks to a pipeline in February 2006. Prior to the attacks, the Forcados oilfields pumped about 380,000 barrels per day.

Most of Forcados output comes from fields operated by Shell and its partners include Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Italy’s Eni and France’s Total.

MEND had on Monday threatened to extend its attacks throughout the Niger Delta and then move on to offshore oil facilities.

The upsurge in militant attacks provoked by a military onslaught some weeks ago had been limited to Chevron operated facilities in Delta State forcing the US oil major to shut in 100,000 barrels per day output.

Although independent investigations put the country’s total shut in oil output, including technical and militancy inspired at about 1.4 million barrels per day, officials at the ministry of petroleum resources claim it is less than one million barrels.

Nigeria has installed capacity to produce 3.3 million b/d of crude oil and condensates and plans to ramp up production to 4.0 million b/d by the turn of the decade.

Currently, the country’s crude oil output is largely dependent on offshore and deepwater production from Mobil operations offshore the Bonny River, Shell’s Bonga, Chevron’s Agbami and lately, Total operated Akpo FPSO in deepwater.

Militants have repeatedly targeted Shell, Total and Agip facilities in the last four years as many of their pipelines and oil pumping station are located in communities hostile to foreign oil producers.