Gas Production in Nigeria Cut

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David Ige

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The Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation has reduced gas production by 50 percent because of pipeline vandalism

By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Feb. 9, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT  |

THE Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, has cut gas production in the country by 50 percent due to the continuous attack on the Trans-Forcados petroleum pipeline.  This has made the available gas supply to thermal electricity generation companies to drop.

In January 2015, the Trans Forcados pipeline, a major pipeline that conveys crude oil from oil fields in Oben, Sapele and Oredo amongst others recorded more than four major breaks across its length, resulting in huge capacity drops. Within this period, the pipeline had not recorded uninterrupted operation for up to four days before another break was inflicted by vandals, according to David Ige, group executive director, gas and power, NNPC.

“We’ve had the Trans Forcados Pipeline vandalised almost once every week for the last couple of weeks and it is not just a recent outage. From the first of January this year and presently, the pipe has been vandalised, we fixed it and it is vandalised again and again and we are in the fourth phase of fixing the pipeline in three weeks and that is not just the beginning because it has been like this consistently for many months.

“Usually, the guys go there and drill holes and in some cases, they kill security operatives that try to stop them. The implication of the Trans Forcados is that it is a major artery that evacuates most of the crude oil from production facilities at Oben, Sapele, Utorogun and others. We have two Forcados which is the main export terminals and the implication of that is that whenever this pipeline is out, we lose gas production from Oben, Sapele, Oredo and Utorogun and that immediately accounts for almost 40 to 50 per cent of our entire gas production in the country,” he said.

Ige, who also expressed the difficulties encountered in getting the pipeline back on stream, said, “It takes us quite sometimes to repair because typical repairs takes about four to five days depending on how many holes we find. Sometimes after repairing, we realise that additional holes have been drilled somewhere because what happens is that when you want to repair the pipeline, you have to depressurise it and that now gives them additional time to drill more holes somewhere down the line and different from where the original attack had happened.

“This has been consistent and has become a major frustration for us and all the efforts for increased volumes of gas for power is affected by this on and off. An additional challenge is that when the pipeline is out and you fix it, it takes us several days to get our production back up to capacity because the wells take time to build up capacity and so it is not just a kind of switch on and off but that we lose time, money and sometimes when we get back up to capacity, the line is blown off again.”

He noted that like Trans Forcados, the Trans Niger on the eastern axis also experiences similar frequency and level of vandalism, adding that: “The implication of Trans Niger being out is that the Afam and Okpai power plants go out and our supply of gas to a lot of our customers on the eastern axis is affected. I do not know what drives it but I do know that in the last couple of months, the intensity has been increased and like I said, since January 1, the Trans Forcados has not been up for about three days in a row without being hit and you can only link that to outright criminality and we know that increase in the last few weeks has been unusual,” Ige said.

Nebo
Nebo

On his part, Chinedu Nebo, minister of power, expressed fears that such unabated attacks could be orchestrated attempts to keep Nigeria’s electricity generation at the 4500 megawatts, MW, level it attained in 2013. Nebo stated this at a recent town hall meeting in Abuja that if not for such incessant attacks on petroleum pipelines, notably Trans Forcados, the country’s electricity generation ought to have grown above its current level and perhaps averaging about 7000MW.

“What the vandals are doing is really painful. If you follow the trend of the attacks, you will notice that any time we come to over 4,000MW, the vandals will strike. When we hit 4,000MW they strike and bring us down. There was a time we were down because of massive vandalism of these pipelines to less than 2500MW for a couple of days. By December, we were above 4,300MW until they struck again and this is the reason we keep crying vandalism. Why do people hate their own country? Who is doing these things?

“There are people who do it because they want to steal oil, those we call oil thieves but these other people that do these things are not oil thieves. They do it on direct gas pipelines, they go under water, in terrains that you and I will not have the guts to go and they burst these gas pipelines. Sometimes they do it in multiple places so that by the time you fix this one thinking you are done others are there because you never find the pressure enough. There are more, like the one they did in 2013 that took almost eight months to fix. More than two dozen spots, what were they doing? They can’t use the gas. That is why we keep crying out loud; let the vandals spare this country,” he said.

While noting that the government’s enlistment of the Nigerian military and other security formations in the country was yielding results, Nebo said the problem is they are far from the terrains that are difficult to reach. “Where you and I would ordinarily not want to go or even venture into but this people are so determined that they want to show Nigeria that we cannot deliver power. We have come to a level where if we know that there is milestone to be achieved especially now that there is a lot of gas available we cannot even announce it because once we announce it they pre-empt us. Hopefully with what the president is doing now we are going to be able to have much better security for the oil and gas pipelines and I do believe that by the grace of God after the elections maybe the saboteurs will see that there is no need to continue until several years to come.”

The minister also said that notwithstanding, the development has pushed the country to begin to think more about other alternative source of electricity. “The only good thing coming out of this is that it has massively moved us to begin to deploy a much better and robust energy mix for the country. It is now driving us to work hard to make sure that Nigeria will never be held hostage by vandals in the future. But it is going to take time to develop the coal plants, the solar farms, wind farms and it is going to take more time to develop the more hydros that are coming on stream,” Nebo said.

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