Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC) Joint Venture suffers a daily loss of at least 43,000 barrels to crude theft and illegal bunkering, in a trend that negatively impacts the environment, robs the country of badly-needed revenue and fuels criminality in communities. Last year, sabotage and crude oil theft was also the cause of 11,806 barrels spilled from SPDC facilities in 118 incidents. This meant an average of one spill every three days, accounting for 77 per cent of the total spilled volume during the period.
“This is a serious attack on the state – the people, the economy, and the environment,” said Managing Director, Mutiu Sunmonu, while commenting on the effects of crude theft in the Niger Delta. “Since, we calculate crude theft quantities based on volumes produced from flowstations and what is received at terminals, it is true that additional oil is stolen between wellheads and flowstations.”
Most of the crude theft activities have been targeted at SPDC JV’s two major pipelines in the Eastern Niger Delta – Nembe Creek Trunkline (NCTL) and Trans Niger Pipeline (TNP). The NCTL was replaced in 2010 at a cost of $1.1 billion, but the new line is still a favourite target of crude thieves.
It was shut down for one month in December last year following a spill caused by two failed bunkering connections. The thieves used the one-month pipeline depressurisation as a window to install even more bunkering points.
Since restart of production in January 2012, there have been multiple trips caused by pressure drops resulting from illegal off-take. Eventually, the NCTL was shut down on 2nd May 2012 to allow for the removal of more than 50 illegal bunkering points.
The latest illegal bunkering activities on the TNP happened on 5th May, resulting in fires. The line was repaired and reopened the following day.
Sunmonu said: “The great majority of spills in the Niger Delta are the result of third party interference, mainly sabotage, theft of equipment or leaks caused by crude oil thieves drilling into pipelines or opening up wellheads to steal oil.
“On average, such third party interference has accounted for 74 per cent of all oil spill incidents and 73 per cent of all oil volume spilled from our facilities between 2007 and 2011.
“Unfortunately, the rest of the volume is caused by operational failures, such as equipment failure and human error. Any spill is a serious concern and we’re working hard to eliminate operational spills,” he added.
As part of its on-going asset management programme, SPDC JV replaced 208 kilometres of flowlines and pipelines in 2011, in addition to the 132 kilometres replaced in 2010. Mr. Sunmonu appealed to all stakeholders to work together to stop the practice