By Grace Chigbu
August 21, 2023 – Shell Nigeria is currently conducting an investigation into a potential leak on its Trans Niger pipeline, which carries a capacity of 180,000 barrels per day, and runs through the Bodo community in Rivers state. The news came to light in a report by Reuters, dated August 21.
According to Salt Abimbola Essien-Nelson, a spokesperson for Shell Nigeria, the company attributes most of its spillages to pipeline vandalism and the illegal tapping of crude oil. “We are working with the community and other stakeholders to ensure we can safely look into and resolve this situation,” stated Bola ‘Salt’ Essien-Nelson in response to Reuters’ inquiry.
It’s noteworthy that the Trans Niger pipeline, responsible for transporting Bonny Light crude, is one of two pipelines facilitating the export of this crude variant. Operated by the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), the Trans Niger Pipeline is instrumental in evacuating crude from oil fields in Rivers and parts of Bayelsa, directing it to the Bonny Crude Oil Export Terminal.
Recalling a recent incident, just six months ago, an explosion occurred at the Rumuekpe section of the pipeline on March 3, 2023. The explosion led to a massive fire that consumed numerous houses in the Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State. The blaze was eventually brought under control, but not before inflicting significant damage.
Subsequent investigations by SPDC revealed that the explosion was triggered by oil thieves who had unlawfully tapped into the pipeline. This form of oil theft is a pervasive issue in Nigeria, causing substantial losses to the nation’s economy each year. In a related occurrence last month, Shell Nigeria had to suspend operations at its Forcados terminal due to a detected sheen. This interruption impacted Nigeria’s crude production for July 2023, and consequently affected the overall output for OPEC-13.
The fight against crude oil theft remains ongoing, with the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited and other stakeholders actively working to curb this detrimental practice. However, incidents of crude oil theft and spills continue to emerge on a weekly basis. Between late July and early August 2023, for instance, over 500 cases of crude oil theft were reported in oil-producing areas such as Imo, Delta, Bayelsa, and Rivers states, resulting in substantial revenue losses for the country.
The backdrop of this ongoing challenge includes previous instances of pipeline leaks in communities across Rivers State. Dating back to July 2013, there have been more than a hundred recorded pipeline leaks on the Trans Niger Pipeline due to bunkering activities. The joint investigation carried out by the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) in August 2022 confirmed that a leak in the Bodo Community of Rivers State was caused by third-party interference, causing crude oil to contaminate the environment and farmlands.
Highlighting the financial ramifications of pipeline inactivity, a crude oil analyst explained in October 2022 that Nigeria had incurred significant losses due to the past dormancy of the Trans Niger pipeline. With a daily production capacity of 180,000 barrels, the estimated loss, calculated at a price of $86 per barrel, amounted to $1.2 billion over a five-month period from May to September 2022.