By Michael Onunwa
“I conquer my enemies when I make them my friends”
Nigeria’s ranking in crude oil production suffered yet another dip in the month of March. For the second time in four months, Angola has beaten the once undisputed largest producer in Africa. Data from the April Market Report of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) indicate that Nigeria produced 1.677 million barrels per day in March, down from 1.744 million bpd in February, while the Angolan oil output rose from 1.767 million bpd to 1.782 million for the same period.
A major contributory factor to the huge loss in production is the endemic challenge of pipeline vandalism. The constant intrusion on pipelines by vandals means a constant interruption of production flow for repairs which cost, not just time and money, but also adversely impact on the myriad of other economic activities that thrive on energy supply.
One of the most strategic pipelines in the nation’s entire network is the Trans Forcados Pipeline (TFP) system. As the second largest network in the Niger Delta, TFP transports oil, water and associated gas from fields in the western delta to the Forcados oil terminal. The terminal has an oil export capacity of 400,000 b/d with a 31 kilometre of pipeline delivering crude to offshore loading berths for export. TFP is therefore, the major trunk line within the system, into which feeds multiple branches from onshore fields. With a total capacity of 850,000 bpd, the 26 inch diameter pipeline is largely buried along most of its length and shared by several operators for production evacuation.
Following what it described as “series of leaks” in the Trans Forcados Pipeline, Shell Petroleum Development Company declared a force majeure on the Forcados crude oil stream. Consequently, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Seplat Petroleum Development Company and four other Nigerian companies comprising Shoreline Resources Limited, Neconde, First Hydrocarbon Nigeria (FHN) and Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), shut down some oilfields, effectively disrupting the export of 189,000 barrels per day and led to a drop in power generation by 1,500 megawatts.
“Once Trans Forcados is down, all of us suffer. In 2014 we budgeted 35 days of outage but we ended up suffering 75 days of outage. In the first 30 days of 2015, we suffered 15 days of outage. So, the Trans Forcados remains a huge problem for all of us, producers in the western Niger Delta, who deliver crude to Forcados. When it is down, everybody suffers; we have production outage and therefore, for the period, there is no production for the country,” CEO of Seplat, Mr. Austin Avuru reportedly said.
In a desperate search for a lasting solution to the problem of incessant pipeline vandalism, the Federal Government, according to the Vice President, Prof. YemiOsibanjo is reportedly considering deploying more sophisticated military machinery in the region to protect the oil infrastructure.
Lamenting the damage to Nigeria’s production capacity due to the destruction of oil and gas facilities in the Niger Delta by pipeline vandals, Osinbajo said the country was “losing thousands of barrels of production. We are not able to produce as much as we ought to. About 250,000 barrels are lost per day. We are losing large sums of money daily. We look for alternatives while we look forward to repairing the pipelines.” He further noted that, “The damage done has led to low supply of gas and most of the power plants are not functioning to maximum capacity. We went to Forcados to see for ourselves the sabotage done to our pipelines. We have seen the alternative steps that the NNPC is taking in order to ameliorate the damage that has been done and the problem associated with getting gas from that terminal to all of our plants.”
While acknowledging that a lot of effort is going into pipeline protection, the Vice President said, “We must meet current vandalism challenges but also look into what we can do in the future.One of the future steps the Buhari administration could take to forestall the perpetration of vandalism, is to establish a permanent pipeline security force (who) would be armed with sophisticated weapons to ensure we contain the vandalism and overhaul security.”
He likened pipeline vandals to “any type of terrorists or saboteurs,” and called for support for President Muhammadu Buhari’s position on confronting vandals with the severest measures possible. “I agree entirely that pipelines vandals should not be tolerated under any circumstances,” he said.
It could be recalled that in 2012, the former Joint Task Force (JTF) operating in the Niger Delta was reconstituted and renamed Operation Pulo Shield: Pulo is an Ijaw word for “Oil”. The operational scope of the task force, which initially covered Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers was extended to cover nine states, namely Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers state.
Lt. Col Timothy Antigha, the then spokesman of the Joint Task Force, in a statement issued in Yenagoa, disclosed the restructuring and added that the composition of the outfit had been expanded to include other agencies such as: National Intelligence Agency, Nigerian Prisons Service, Nigerian Customs Service, Nigerian Immigration Service, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency.
•Onunwa writes via at [email protected].com