The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) has bemoaned the crude oil theft activities that led to the recent fire and explosion on the 28’’ Trans Niger Pipeline (TNP).
According to a statement issued on Friday by Mr Tony Okonedo, Head, Media Communications of SPDC, a joint investigation team comprising regulators, communities, independent observers and SPDC found that the incident occurred as a result of unknown persons installing a valve to steal crude oil from the line.
The statement said SPDC had repaired the valve point and removed six other crude oil theft connections in its continuing efforts to maintain the integrity of the line.
The statement quoted the strident warning by the company’s managing director, and country chair, Shell companies in Nigeria, Mutiu Sunmonu, about the consequences of not curtailing the rising wave of crude theft in the Delta.
“As we have stated previously, crude theft has severe consequences lasting far beyond our lifetime. I have a personal stake in this tragedy having spent nearly all my adult and working life in the Niger Delta. The trend of crude theft will result in long-lasting damage to the well-being of present and future generations.
“All stakeholders who are genuinely interested in seeing this problem curtailed should join hands and stop this crime against the people and the environment of the Niger Delta,’’ Sunmonu said.
Shell said in the statement that the 24” TNP, which was shut down in a precautionary response to the fire on the 28” TNP, had been reopened for production.
“Suggestions that we reacted slowly to the fire and spill are false.
At the earliest opportunity, we quickly mobilised teams to respond to a crude theft spill on the 28 TNP on June 10 and the explosion and fire on June 19,” said Sunmonu.
“ We conducted an assessment of the risks and decided, with the support of the JTF to enforce a restriction of access to the site for safety reasons. Our response and the actions we took at Bodo West were in the best interest of lives and the environment.’’
It said that the SPDC also dismissed suggestions that the TNP was not safe to operate.
According to the statement, the line is operated in line with the company’s Pipeline Integrity Management System (PIMS), ensuring regular inspection and maintenance.
It said the dominant cause of failures on the TNP had been third party damage resulting from sabotage (hacksaw cuts, drilled holes, etc) and illegal crude theft.
“In the past three years, a total of 25 leaks have been recorded on the facility – 23 of which were due to sabotage and two operational pinhole leaks.
“Integrity assessments, including Long Range Ultrasonic Test surveys, Cathodic Protection, surveys and chemical injection have been periodically performed on the pipelines.
“Also, SPDC has always made use of the opportunity presented during sabotage/crude theft point leak repairs to carry out on-the-spot coating and internal checks to confirm the integrity of the pipeline and coating,’’ it said.
Sunmonu said that shutting down the pipeline as being suggested would not solve the problem.
“Our ability and competence to safely operate the pipeline has never been in doubt. The only way to ensure the TNP operates optimally without being shut down regularly for repairs is to stop the thriving crude theft activities on both the 24” and 28” streams.
“All the data from the interventions and assessments in the pipeline integrity assessment process currently confirm that the pipelines are healthy and fit for service,’’ he said.
Sunmonu, however, referred to the reported arrest of some employees of an SPDC service contractor on suspicion of crude theft on the TNP.
He added that the company would continue to cooperate with the JTF in the investigations.
“We have confidence that the arrested persons shall be treated in line with the principle of presumption of innocence and hope for a speedy and transparent dispensation of justice.