Naval Chief Wants Operators to Seal Deactivated  Wellheads to Curb  Oil Theft

, Relaunches Operation Delta Sanity to eradicate oil theft

Chiemelie Ezeobi in Lagos and Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt

The Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla, yesterday advocated  the buy-in of the federal government and Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) and other regulators to compel oil operators to seal all deactivated wellheads.

This is just as Rivers State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara, encouraged the Nigerian Navy (NN) to be resolute in the fight against all forms of economic sabotage, particularly crude oil theft, in the waterways.

The CNS, who spoke after relaunching Operation Delta Sanity at Nigerian Naval Ship (NNS) Pathfinder, Port Harcourt, said this measure would go a long way to tackle the challenges of oil theft in the Niger Delta region.

Vice Admiral Ogalla said the directive has been given to compile a list of all those wellheads with recommendation to the NNPCL that they be deactivated properly by sealing them so it will no longer pose as an opportunity for oil vandals.

While over 62,000 barrels of crude oil, as well as 1 million litres of illegally-refined diesel, petrol and kerosene, valued in total at about N10 billion recorded since Operation Delta Sanity was launched in January 6, 2024, is laudable, one of the issues that fuel crude oil theft is the improperly managed non deactivated well heads.

 Determined to tackle oil theft to the barest minimum, the navy chief also tasked the NNPCL to ensure that they employ technology to assure proper surveillance of all the active wellheads.

Noting the efforts of the navy in eradicating illegal oil refining activities in the region, Ogalla said in advanced countries, oil Wellheads are monitored through technology.

He said: “On the issue of deactivated oil wellheads, basically, all over the world it is not possible that all wellheads are manned, but we could have effective ways of ensuring that those unmanned wellheads are properly monitored using technology.

“That is what is being done in some advanced countries and we are putting it forward to the NNPCL and the federal government to ensure that we employ technology to assure proper surveillance of all the active wellheads.

“In terms of deactivated wellheads, worldwide industries standards require that when wellheads are no longer economical, they are deactivated, which means they are properly sealed in such a way that it becomes impossible for ordinary person to penetrate them.

“That is what we are advocating that NNPCL and the regulators, like NUPRC should compel on all the operators to seal all their deactivated wellheads.

“All we need is to ensure proper enforcement and we cannot do it alone as Nigerian Navy but we have given directive today, and we are going to compile a list of all those wellheads and present it to the NNPCL, recommending that they should be deactivated properly by sealing them so it will no longer pose as an opportunity for these vandals.”

Flagging-off the second phase of the Operation Delta Sanity, Ogalla explained that the reason for the continuation of the operation was based on the successes and challenges they have noticed, saying that “we have reviewed the operation and we are extending it with a view to achieving even more than what we have achieved in the past three months.”

Speaking further, Ogalla explained that the operation was first launched on January 6, 2024, to combat crude oil theft and other criminalities particularly in the Niger Delta area.

He said the launch was in line with the President Bola Tinubu’s directive to eradicate oil theft and ramp up Nigeria’s oil production towards an improved economy.

According to him, “It is also in line with my vision for the Nigerian Navy which is to emplace a highly motivated naval force capable of shaping the security outcome within Nigeria’s maritime domain and the literals including land-based engagements, in fulfilment of Nigeria’s national interest.

“Accordingly, Operation Delta Sanity was conceptualised as a major anti-crude oil theft operation and we deployed Nigerian Navy personnel, platforms, helicopters, UAVs, amongst others in aggressive surveillance and interdiction operations across the Niger Delta area.

“So far, operation Delta Sanity has been a success. The operation has denied oil thieves and vandals across various parts of the Niger Delta freedom of action in our maritime environment.

“From Bayelsa to Ondo States, Rivers to Akwa Ibom States and beyond with the recovery of massive quantities of stolen crude oil products, dismantling of illegal refining sites, arrests of suspects, seizure of stolen products, all which have underscored the resolve of the Nigerian Navy to stamp out crude oil theft.”

Listing other successes of the operation in the past months, the CNS said “Operation Delta Sanity has recorded successes which include seizure of 95 wooden boats, deactivated 119 storage tanks used for illegal refining sites, deactivated several dugout pits. We have also recorded successes in terms of seized fibre boats, arrested vehicles and arrested over 74 suspects.

“Of notes are the recent arrests of over 14 large motor tanker vessels, including MT harbour spirit. It should be recalled that one of the vessels, MT SweetMary was arrested at about 174nautical miles off Nigeria’s coast which underscores Nigeria navy determination to police the backwaters and also the coastal zones and pursue any erring vessel into the blue waters as far as necessary”.

He said with the operation, the region has noticed significant improvement in air quality in the recent months, adding that the “SPDC has reported an increase in their terminal factor, in addition to crude oil production recorded by NNPCL and other oil operators.”

Meanwhile, Governor Fubara has noted with delight the positive results already recorded by the navy in the state due largely to the tremendous support it has received from his administration.

The governor spoke when he hosted the CNS with his delegation of senior officers at Government House in Port Harcourt.

The Rivers State governor stated that Nigeria was facing myriad of crises, including economic challenges, rising insecurity and criminal activities that threaten the national economy, which should not be overlooked.

Governor Fubara said the good news of reduced level of oil theft in Rivers State is evidence of the many positive things that are happening in the state beyond the much hyped negativity, and assured that such positive achievements will be sustained.

Governor Fubara said: “I want to assure you that we will continue to give them the support, and discourage any act that would be a sabotage to the economy of our state.”

In his response, the CNS said the NN and Rivers State need collaboration on various aspects of their activities ranging from training, operations, logistics, adding that the state is key to their performance.

He said: “My purpose of coming here today are three folds. The first is to inform His Excellency that on Saturday, we are graduating a set of former civilians who have been trained at our Basic Training School, Onne, and are graduating to join the ranks of the Nigerian Navy as ratings in order to beef up our strength.

“The second reason is to first appreciate the Governor and the entire Rivers State Government for the schools they donated to us- the Ambassador Nne Krukrubo Model Secondary School at Eleme in Eleme Local Government Area, and the Model Secondary School, Egbelu in Oyigbo Local Government Area.”

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