…Over N25bn Stolen Crude Recovered, 85 Suspects Arrested Through NNPC’s Partnership With Navy

By Udeme Akpan, Energy Editor & Ediri Ejoh

Nigeria’s oil output dropped by 12.5 per cent to 1.4 million barrels per day, mb/d, including condensate, in the first half (January – June) of 2022, from 1.6 mb/d in the corresponding period of 2021, according to the latest report of the Nigeria Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, NUPRC.

Checks by Vanguard, yesterday, attributed the decline in output to pipeline vandalism, oil theft and the booming illegal refining in the Niger Delta.

The checks showed that between 200,000 and 400,000 barrels of crude were lost to the oil thieves daily during the period.

It further showed that the nation was unable to meet the quota of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, currently standing at 1.826 mb/d.

Vanguard had reported that attacks by oil thieves in 2021 alone culminated in the loss of over $4.01 billion.

At the current price of over $90 per barrel, the expected windfall that should have accrued to the country has been lost to the thieves, especially now that the government is gasping for much revenue to fund its projects and programmes.

According to NNPC data, average production in 2020 stood at 1.77mb/d, before sliding consistently to 1.6 mb/d and 1.4 mb/d in 2021 and 2022 respectively.

Rising trend

The oil output was relatively high in 2020 when Covid-19 and lockdown that followed hampered the movement of goods and persons from one place to another, resulting to the production of 2.49 mb/d on 17thApril, 2020.

The report also confirmed that the rate of oil theft kept rising as the price of crude oil recovered in the market “until March 2022 when there was zero recovery from all the volumes that were pumped into the line”.

It also noted that oil theft, “is that it is more endemic with Joint Ventures assets and those that belong to the Independents than with Production Sharing Contracts assets. This is likely because of the nature of the JV assets, which are mainly onshore or in swamp/shallow waters. This makes the evacuation pipelines more accessible than those of the PSCs which are offshore and in deep waters.

“There is also a pattern in the way the theft is carried out. This can be discerned from the size of pipes inserted on the lines and the technology deployed in carrying out the insertion.

“In some cases, the pipes inserted to steal crude oil from the lines are small and fitted in an amateurish way. This is an indication that those involved are small time criminals, more likely artisanal refiners who operate the slew of illegal refineries that dot the creeks of the Niger Delta from Akwa Ibom to Rivers, and from Delta to Bayelsa.

“Some of the pipes fitted into the lines to siphon crude oil are big. In some cases, they are of the same size with the pipeline or of the size that is used at the terminal to pump crude into vessels. A close look at them would reveal that they are professionally fitted with the use of cutting-edge technology. There have been cases where riser pipes were used indicating that the criminal deployed cranes. These cases indicate that the persons involved are not the regular illegal refinery operators but sophisticated and very knowledgeable criminals with access to vessels through which they ship the stolen crude oil out of the country.

“The involvement of this last group is what accounts for the high volumes involved in the theft which has become an existential economic threat to the oil and gas industry and even Nigeria as a nation”.

How NNPC Is Battling Crude Oil Theft

The Nigerian National Petroluem Company Ltd has entered into collaboration with the Nigerian Navy, the European Union and other security agencies to tackle issue of crude oil.

The collaboration, according to findings have started yielding results saving the country the theft of N25bn worth of crude oil.

The collaboration was launched on April 1 through ‘Operation Dakatar Da Bararrwo.’

Since the launch of the operation in April, the partnership has assisted in preventing the theft of N25bn worth of crude oil and products.

Figures released showed that 23,110,102.59 litres of diesel had been seized while crude oil was put at 39,664,420.16 litres or 230,882.73 barrels.

For kerosene, about 649,775.38 litres were confiscated; while PMS had recovery of 345,000.49 litres, Sludge 380,000 litres, and LPFO 66,000 litres

During the operation, 85 suspects were arrested with 72 Boats while 23 vehicles were also seized.

Personnel of the Navy, working with the NNPC also destroyed 127 ovens, 102 large pits, 148 storage tanks and recovered 41 outboard engines.

Four months ago, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva the Chief of Defence Staff Lucky Irabo and the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroluem Company Ltd Mele Kyari, visited the Niger Delta for an on-the-spot assessment of the damage done by vandals.

Shortly after the visit, a military operation followed immediately to smoke vandals out of the creeks.

Just last week, Kyari led the European Union delegation, top officials of the NNPC Ltd as well as representatives of security agencies to again visit the Niger Delta Creek to assess the ongoing fight against crude oil theft, illegal bunkering and vandalism of oil and gas installations.

The NNPC delegation had the Group Executive Director (Upstream) Engr Adokiye Tombomieye; GED Gas and Power Abdulkadir Ahmed; the Group General Manager, National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS), Mr. Bala Wunti; Manager Joint Venture Asset Mr Mustapha Yusufu; Head Gas Facilities, Dr Obinna Otuu and the PTDT Upstream Mr Olanrewaju Igadan.

The EU delegation had Mr. Matthew
Baldwin (Deputy Director General, EU Commission); Ms. Samuela Isopi (EU Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS); Ms. Cecile
Leemans (Team Leader Southern Partnerships, EU Commission); Mr. Richard Young ( Head of Division West Africa, EEAS); and Mr. Thomas Kieler (Political Adviser, EU Delegation to Nigeria).

Other members of the EU delegation are Mr. Jerome Riviere (Programme Manager, EU Delegation to Nigeria); Mr. Juan Sell (Ambassador of Spain to Nigeria); Mr. Tarek Chazli (Charge d’affairs Italy Embassy to Nigeria); and Mr. Luis Barros (Ambassador of Portugal to Nigeria)

The delegation was also accompanied by Admiral Aminu Hassan, the Commander Operations Delta Safe.

Industry leaders react

Commenting on the development, Group Managing Director/CEO of NNPC, Mallam Mele Kyari, had said Nigeria’s capacity to produce significantly higher volumes on any normal day than it is currently doing.

Recently, he had said: “If you inject 239,000 barrels of crude oil into either of the Trans-Niger Pipeline or the Nembe Creek Trunk Line (these are some of the major pipelines that convey crude oil to the terminals for export), you will only receive 3,000 barrels. It got to a point where it was no longer economically sustainable to pump crude into the lines and a force majeure was declared.

“In 2021, a similar trend was observed. In January of that year, out of about 239,000bpd pumped into the line, only 190,000bpd was recovered putting the loss at 19,000bpd”.

The Chairman/Managing Director of ExxonMobil, Richard Laing pointed out that though the issue was not new, it has grown from just oil theft to organized criminality with sophisticated operation.

He had said: “As an industry, I know how hard my colleagues work to produce products that we need and to suffer the level of theft that we have is disheartening. But more importantly it is a threat to investments, a threat to the health of the industry and wealth of the nation

In its latest briefing notes, Shell Petroleum Development Company, the nation’s highest oil producer, which confirmed the development, stated: “In 2021, the combined production from the SPDC JV and SNEPCo (Bonga) fell to 493,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day from 614,000 in 2020. The SPDC JV produced 383,000 barrels of oil equivalent in 2021, compared with 497,000 barrels of oil equivalent in 2020. The fall in output was largely a result of curtailed oil production because of heightened security issues, such as crude oil theft and illegal oil refining.”

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