Nigeria: Shell Shuts Down Oil Field PDF | Print | E-mail
Saturday, 21 June 2008 10:45
Oil Rig Royal Dutch Shell yesterday said it shut down production from an offshore oil field that produces about 200,000 barrels per day. This was after after the most powerful militant... group in Nigeria launched an attack on an installation there.

The group also said it captured an American worker on a supply vessel in the area of the rig, Captain Jack Stone.

A leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) told The Associated Press that militants attacked the Bonga oil field more than 65 miles from land. But the fighters weren't able to enter a computer control room, which they had hoped to destroy.

Sources, however, said the Chief Jephthah-led delegation may secure his release in the earliest possible time as talks have reached an advance stage with those responsible.

But in an earlier statement of claim issued by the Leader of the MEND through e-mail, Gbomo Jomo claimed that the main computerized control room responsible for coordinating the entire crude oil export operations from the fields was the main target of the militias.

It stated, that "Our detonation engineers could not gain access to blow it up but decided against smoking out the occupants by burning down the facility to avoid loss of life."

The MEND promised that their next planned attack on the oil field would be deadly. "We therefore ask all workers in the Bonga fields to evacuate for their safety as the military cannot protect them".

They offered that they would only release the American if the Federal Government releases persons of Niger Delta origin arrested on allegation of terrorism charges. "This man was supposed to only be released in exchange for all Niger Delta hostages being held in northern Nigeria by the Nigerian government. Because the criminals in the government and state security want to use this opportunity to make money from ransom. We have decided he will be released in the coming hours.

"The location for today's attack was deliberately chosen to remove any notion that off-shore oil exploration is far from our reach. The oil companies and their collaborators do not have any place to hide in conducting their nefarious activities. We use this opportunity to ask the oil majors to evacuate their expatriate staff from Nigeria until the issues in the Niger Delta have been addressed and resolved."

Contacted on the development, the media officer of the Peace and Conflict Resolution Committee, Mr. Alfine Ogor, confirmed the development and said his boss, Chief James Jephthah, has immediately mobilised to the scene. "We are on our way to the place and we will get back details to you".

Also contacted, the Commander of the Joint Military Task Force, Lt. Col. Chris Musa, told LEADERSHIP that they have also received the news of the kidnap of the expatriate but were waiting for details on the group responsible.

Over 200 foreign hostages have been seized since an upsurge of violence that began in early 2006. The hostages are normally released unharmed after a ransom is paid.

Attacks against offshore facilities are exceedingly rare. Oil industry officials consider their operations on the high seas much safer than those in the creeks and swamps of Niger Delta, where most of the attacks during two years of increased violence have taken place.

Militant attacks on oil infrastructure have trimmed about a quarter of total oil production in Nigeria, which is Africa's biggest producer and a member of OPEC.

The turmoil in Nigeria's south has helped send oil prices to historical heights, giving the militants more leverage in their drive to force the Federal Government to send more oil industry proceeds to their areas.

Despite being the home of almost all of Nigeria's petroleum reserves, the country's south is as desperately poor as the rest of the country, which is Africa's most populous with 140 million people.

But criminality and militancy are closely linked, with many of the militant groups accused of stealing crude oil from wells and pipelines for sale in overseas market and helping politicians rig elections.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government is losing 150 million standard cubic feet of gas and 200,000 barrels of oil daily as embattled oil gaint, Shell yesterday shut down production at its Bonga oil field following a fresh militant attack.

Shell spokesman, Precious Okolobo, who disclosed this to the media yesterday said, "We shut down production at the Bonga oilfield following an attack by unknown militants this morning."

The militants are yet to be identified, but Shell sources point accusing fingers at MEND which is headed by Henry Okah and has claimed responsibility for most of the attacks on oil facilities and kidnaps in the region.

The militant attack on the Bonga deepwater oil and gas field located 120 kilometres offshore with a daily production capacity of 200,000 barrels of oil and 150 million standard cubic feet of gas is seen by industry experts as a major setback on the effort of the Federal Government to regain its lost position as number one oil producing and exporting nation in Africa and to regain the confidence of its international partners and bring lasting peace to the Niger Delta. Angola currently tops Nigeria in oil production and export in Africa, going by OPEC records.

The implication of the shutting down of the Bonga deep water oil and gas fields and continued militant attacks on oil facilities are enormous. Already, Royal Dutch Shell has revealed that it can no longer honour June and July contracts from its Bonny terminal as a result of militant attacks two months ago. Meanwhile force majeure had been declared for April and May deliveries following similar attacks.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 June 2008 10:41