In a shocking revelation, the Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC), Mallam Mele Kyari, has narrated how an illegal oil pipeline connecting directly to the high sea was recently discovered.
Kyari said the major oil export terminal that had its products diverted into the sea had been operating undetected for nine years.
The four-kilometre or 2.5-mile connection from the Forcados export terminal, which typically exports around 250,000 barrels per day (BPD) of oil, into the sea was found during a clampdown on theft in the past six weeks, Kyari said during a meeting with the Nigerian senate.
“Oil theft in the country has been going on for over 22 years but the dimension and rate it assumed in recent times is unprecedented,” Kyari told the lawmakers.
“But in rising up to the highly disturbing challenge, NNPC, has in recent time in collaboration with relevant security agencies clamped down on the economic saboteurs.
“In the course of the clampdown within the last six weeks, 395 illegal refineries have been deactivated, 274 reservoirs destroyed, 1,561 metal tanks destroyed, 49 trucks seized.
“The most striking of all, is the four-kilometre illegal oil connection line from Forcados Terminal into the sea which had been in operation undetected for nine solid years,” he added.
While thieves often tap land-based pipelines to siphon oil undetected, but an illegal line in the ocean is highly unusual and suggests a more sophisticated theft operation.
Forcados is operated by the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), a local subsidiary of Shell.
Nigeria has been losing potential revenue from some 600,000 BPD of oil, Kyari mostly as a result of shut-ins due to vandalism.
Crude oil exports fell to 972,000 BPD in August for the first time since at least 1990 as a result, starving Nigeria of crucial cash.
Activities at the affected terminal have been stopped since a leak was found from a sub-sea hose at the terminal on July 17.
Shell said this week that it expected loadings to resume in the second half of October. Kyari, however, puts it in a number of days.
Nigeria recently took a raft of measures to curtail the oil theft menace, which so far appears to have defied all solutions.
A few of the measures include the renewed deployment of security personnel in the Niger Delta and the real-time monitoring of activities around the pipelines by the NNPC.
In addition, the national oil firm has introduced the whistle-blower strategy as well as the handing over of a N4 billion monthly surveillance contract to ex-militant, Government Ekpemupolo, popularly known as Tompolo.
The federal government has variously blamed massive oil theft, vandalism of major assets, dilapidated infrastructure as well as declining upstream investment for its inability to drill more of the commodity.
Last Tuesday, during a briefing on its audited financial report for 2021, Kyari had said the all-important Trans Niger Pipeline (TNP) which had been down for months would come online in the “next few days”.
Kyari further told the lawmakers that Nigeria was in a ‘calamitous’ situation over oil theft, and pipeline vandalism with its attendant low production.
He explained that the NNPC had been carrying out aerial surveillance of the affected areas and discovered “the economic saboteurs carrying out their activities unchallenged and unperturbed.”