By Hector Igbikiowubo
SHELL Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), operated of the Shell/NNPC joint venture on Thursday halted operations at its Utorogu gas plant in the southern Niger Delta following suspected sabotage of the Escravos-Lagos Pipeline system.
The development also caused gas supply disruption to the 1320 Megawatts (MW) Egbin thermal power station and others, resulting in a loss of 1000 Megawatts (MW) of electricity generation to the national grid.
â€œWe have no report of an attack on the Utorogu gas plant,â€ Shell spokeswoman Caroline Wittgen said.
â€œHowever the plant was shut down yesterday because of an incident on the Escravos_Lagos Pipeline System (ELPS). Utorogu produces into the pipeline,â€ she told Reuters news agency.
Utorogu was shut down for several days in April in order to repair a pipeline that was tapped by thieves.Although a statement released by management of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), disclosed that the loss to the national grid amounted to 500 MW, another statement from the power ministry disclosed that the loss had risen to 1000 MW from the current 2400MW of power across the country.
PHCN explained that it first received notification to this effect from the Nigerian Gas Company (NGC), yesterday.
It is on record that due to gas supply limitation, Sapele Power Station has been shut down since November 2008, while supplies to Geregu, Omotosho and Olorunsogo Power Stations are similarly affected.
Egbin in particular had been badly affected by the recurring vandalism of the Utorogu condensate pipeline, causing the plant to drop output to 300 MW.
It was gathered however, that output from the plant had increased to 600MW before the recent development, an indication that only 100 MW output may be generated from today.
â€œIn the circumstance, we are appealing to our esteemed customers, the media and other stakeholders for understanding and continued support as the NGC has assured us of immediate repairs. We promise to keep you informed of further developments and assure of our determination for a sustainable power supply to the nation.â€
Also speaking on the development, Mrs Olubunmi Badejo, the Press Secretary to the Minister of Power Dr. Lanre Babalola said that the development would further worsen the already comatose power situation in the country.
She said the Utorogu pipeline remains the only supply chain to the nationâ€™s thermal power stations in the country adding that the Minister is seriously perturbed by the development.
Badejo further stated that the Minister was on his way to Alaoji power plant to see the level of work at the thermal plant and had high hopes for achieving the targeted 6000 MW by December until the recent development at Utorogu which occurred in the wee hours of yesterday.
She could not confirm as at press time which group of people were responsible for this sabotage but stated that the Ministry in conjunction with its agencies are still carrying out investigations and would issue a statement on the development as it unfolds.
Vandalism of the Shell operated Utorogu condensate pipeline has become a recurring decimal, making it impossible for the PHCN to meet its obligations to power consumers.
An industry operator said members of the Iwerekan community in Delta state were thought to have been responsible for Thursdayâ€™s incident on the pipeline, although it was not immediately clear whether it was an act of attempted theft or sabotage.
The pipeline system supplies gas feedstockÂ from the Niger Delta to power stations in the southern part of the country, including the commercial hub of Lagos, as well as the West African gas pipeline structure.
While speaking on the development an official of the power ministry noted that the expectation was that following the granting of amnesty and the declaration of cease-fire by the militants acts of vandalism would cease.
The official who did not want his name in print disclosed that power generation from the operating plants had earlier recorded marked improvement, registering an average 2400 MW in the last 4 days, adding however that with the current development it will drop and worsen the load-shedding regime.
â€œPHCN is in dire straits as we speak and at this rate, payment of salaries will soon become an issue because the public utility cannot collect outstanding electricity bills from customers who do not have power supply,â€ the official disclosed.Â Vanguard gathered that following the rains, output from the three hydro power stations including Kainji, Shiroro and Jebba are generating 700 MW.