Shell shuts Trans-Niger oil pipeline after blast, fire

By SARAH KENT

Royal Dutch Shell's Nigerian subsidiary has shut a key pipeline in the Niger Delta following an explosion and fire at a point that had been targeted by oil thieves, the company said in a statement Thursday.

The Trans Niger pipeline, which carries 150,000 bpd of oil through the Niger Delta to the Bonny terminal, was shut on Wednesday after the event at Bodo West in Ogoniland, the statement said.

"This is another sad reminder of the tragic consequences of crude oil theft," said Mutiu Sunmonu, managing director and country chair at Shell's Nigerian subsidiary, Shell Petroleum Development. Oil theft is a persistent problem in Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer, and frequently disrupts oil supply.

"Unknown persons continued to reconnect illegal bunkering hoses at Bodo West even as our pipeline team were removing crude theft points. It was therefore not surprising that the fire occurred from the continuing illegal bunkering even as a previous crude oil theft point was being repaired by the team," he added.

The company said it had already shut the Trans Niger's 28-inch pipeline to remove connections used for crude oil theft when the incident occurred, causing it to shut the 24-inch pipeline as well. It said the 24-inch line will reopen once it is safe to do so, while the 28-inch line will remain remain shut-in until the fire has been extinguished and investigation and damage assessment completed.

Community leader Sylvester Kogbara, who chairs the council of chiefs and elders of Bodo, the community in the Eastern Niger Delta where the incident took place, told the Wall Street Journal that the pipeline suffered a spill early last week, but on Wednesday "it caught fire," wounding several workers.

Shell said so far practically no oil had spilled as a result of the incident since the fire was burning it off.

"What is visible in the water is from an earlier oil spill which was also as a result of oil theft," said Mr. Sunmonu.

 Dow Jones Newswires

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