Chika Amanze-Nwachuku and Sylvester Idowu in Warri
Fear gripped the Otu-Jeremi community in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State, when a pipeline belonging to the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) exploded yesterday, curtailing oil and gas production.
The affected Abura Crude Trunk line, services Oil Mining Lease 34 (OML 34) jointly operated by the NPDC, the production arm of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and ND Western, an indigenous oil firm.
As a precaution, the NNPC was said to have immediately shut down production, while efforts have commenced to repair the damaged pipeline.
NNPC spokesman Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, told THISDAY last night that the incident was gas explosion and not pipeline explosion as reported, adding that production was immediately shut down to enable experts commence repair today.
Ughamadu, who said no life was lost in the incident, explained that the affected pipeline was inherited from the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC).
However, security sources told THISDAY that at about 12 noon on Friday, residents reported a sudden loud bang from the area where pipelines crisscrossed the community.
It was gathered that following the explosion, crude oil was gushing out of the pipeline, known as Abura Crude Trunkline operated by the NPDC.
“The oil pipeline exploded at about noon with oil volumes of crude oil gushing out into the surroundings in Otu-Jeremi, Headquarters of Ughelli South Local Government area”, another source said.
THISDAY, during a visit, observed residents in the community, especially those living meters away from the affected line, running helter skelter for fear of possible fire outbreak.
Security agents, including soldiers and Policemen cordoned off the area to prevent residents from having access to the area.
Fire- fighting vehicles were also stationed close to the scene in case of inferno.
It could not be ascertained which company operates the JV with NPDC on the affected pipeline, THISDAY however gathered that the OML 34 pipelines operated by ND Western jointly with the NPDC also operate in the area.
The OML 34 is of utmost strategic importance to Nigeria and the West African sub-region, as a major supplier of gas for electricity generation in Nigeria. It also feeds gas through the West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP) to neighboring countries.
The oil block is located in the Western Niger Delta and covers an area of some 950 square kilometers. The producing fields are Utorogu, Ughelli East, and Ughelli West, with total flowstation capacity of 90 Mbpd. Warri River field was previously a producing field until an imposed shut-in in 1997. The field is expected to return to production.
The block has two Gas Plants; one in Utorogu field with 360 MMscfd capacity and the other in Ughelli East field with 90 MMscfd capacity. The combined fields currently produce an average of about 390 MMscfd of gas, and 17,000 bpd of oil and condensate.
ND Western is now the holder of a 45% Participating Interest in OML 34, in an unincorporated JV with NPDC that holds the remaining 55% interest previously held by its parent entity, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. NPDC is the operator of the Asset.
In an interaction with newsmen recently, the NPDC/ND Western OML 34 AMT (Asset Management Team) JV, alleged that locals, surveillance guards and contractor were the cause of incessant vandalism of its oil facilities and illegal oil bunkering within its operational area in the state.
The Chief Operating Officer of NPDC/NDW OML 34 AMT, Chief Edirin Abamwa lamented the extra cost of replacing damaged equipment by third parties in the company’s area of operations.
The COO, who was represented at the session by the Manager, Government, Community Relations &Security, Mr. Aiguedo Sheidu accused the workers of the surveillance guards and contractors of colluding to perpetrate the illegal acts.
He disclosed that the company paid billions of naira to the contractors to guide the pipelines but its facilities were still being vandalised by oil thieves.
“Community people who are supposed to speak, it is either they are afraid to speak or they are benefitting from the activities of the illegal bunkers in their communities.”
Abamwa said the activities of the illegal bunkers were on the increase, adding that illegal bunkers returned to the impacted areas to cause more destruction and destroyed the environment.
The COO of NPDC/ND Western OML 34 AMT gave a frightening dimension into the illegal activities when he alleged that children and women were now being recruited into the illicit business in the various communities.
Delta State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Adeyinka Adeleke confirmed the explosion yesterday but said he was yet to get details of the incident.
“Yes. The incident happened but I am yet to get the cause of the incident and whether it was sabotage or not and whether there were casualties”, he told THISDAY.