NNPCL intensifies anti-theft battle as oil output declines



The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited is stepping up efforts to combat oil theft in the Niger Delta, as the country’s oil production continues to plummet, writes OPEOLUWANI AKINTAYO

In an update on its fight against crude oil theft in the country in July, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited said it uncovered 162 illegal pipeline connections and illegal refineries in the Niger Delta, mostly in Bayelsa State.

In a two-minute documentary, the state-owned oil firm said 93 illegal pipeline connections and 69 illegal refineries were uncovered in Aboa and Gbokoda between July 15 and 21, and had been destroyed.

“War on crude oil theft: 93 illegal pipeline connections discovered and 69 illegal refineries destroyed in the Niger Delta in the past week,” the company declared.

The company explained that large-scale crude oil theft was currently ongoing in the Niger Delta According to the NNPCL, the illegalities were discovered using its maritime intelligence system.

“30 wooden boats used in carrying stolen crude oil were confiscated in the past week, with some in Gbokodo, and five cases of oil spill recorded in the deep blue waters,” it disclosed in the documentary.

They recently reported how a self-acclaimed Niger Delta militant group, Creek Reform Warriors, threatened to resume attacks on major oil facilities in the region.

In a statement, the group threatened to attack facilities operated by the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited over an alleged unjust sacking of some workers in Forcados Terminal.

The leader of the group, “General” Igbokuro Tinowei, demanded reinstatement of all workers from Ogulagha and Odimodi communities, who according to him, were unjustly sacked by SPDC in 2019.

He claimed that the IOC had promised to recall the sacked workers immediately after the COVID-19 pandemic, but serially defaulted.

Tinowei warned the management of SPDC to reinstate the said workers within two weeks or face dire consequences of brutal attacks.

While reports on imminent attacks on SPDC’s oil facilities did not make it to the public, one month later, there was information that an export grade produced by Shell, Forcados had been offline due to a leak at its terminal.

Although the grade was said to be back on stream, the country lost thousands of barrels during it was shut.

Exports of the grade, which were scheduled to ship 220,000 barrels per day in July, were halted on the evening of July 12 after workers saw fumes near a single buoy, mooring where oil was being loaded into a vessel.

Shell confirmed that injections into the terminal had been curtailed after the report, though no force majeure was declared.

The suspension of Forcados loadings contributed to the country becoming the second-biggest contributor to the drop in OPEC crude oil output in July, a Reuters survey showed.

As a result of the halt in Forcados loadings, Nigeria’s crude oil production slumped by 40,000 bpd in July compared to June, marking one of the biggest drops in OPEC output.

In August, a vessel, MT Praisel, carrying crude oil suspected to have been stolen was intercepted in the Koko area of Delta State by the Tanita Security Services.

MT Praisel was intercepted while the 1, 117 tonnes vessel carrying about 8,100 barrels of crude, was being allegedly escorted by some naval officers.

Tanita Security outfit is a private security company owned by Government Ekpemupolo, popularly called Tompolo, an ex-Niger Delta agitator, who recently got a contract from the Federal Government to protect oil pipelines.

Operatives of the Tanita Security said the vessel was flying a Togolese flag and was being escorted by a Navy boat led by a senior naval commander.

Tanita operatives said they were met with resistance from the navy boat escorting the vessel and that the naval commander threatened to deal decisively with them. But the private operatives said they refused to back down.

According to Tanita operatives, they eventually contacted the National Security Adviser, Nuhu Ribadu and the Chief of Naval Staff Rear Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla, who authorised them to inspect the vessel.

Upon entering the ship, the security company officials noticed that the vessel was authorised by the navy to lift crude oil, but it did not receive approval from the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority.

The incident comes on the heels of the outcry by the Federal Government that the illegal trade of stolen crude oil had inflicted significant economic losses on Nigeria to the tune of N2.3tn in 12 months.

Again last month, NNPCL said it destroyed dozens of illegal refineries and unauthorised pipelines as part of its ongoing fight against oil theft in the Niger Delta.

In a video posted on its social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, it said in the week through August 11, at least 53 illegal refineries were discovered in Rivers, Bayelsa and Imo states. It also reported 35 illegal pipeline connections, which it said were currently being repaired.

During the period, eight incidents of pipeline vandalism, causing oil spills were reported. In total, 144 incidents were recorded.

“The war on crude oil theft is on and the industry-wide security collaboration continues to record remarkable progress,” the company said in the video.

“There is no backing down on the war on crude oil theft until the menace is eradicated for good.”

NNPC said 11 vessels were flagged for Automatic Identification System violations, and were reported to the navy. In July, it intercepted an 800,000-litre vessel carrying stolen crude while heading to Cameroon.

Nigeria has lost huge oil production and export to oil theft in the Niger Delta lately. This has adversely affected its OPEC quota.

Amid the oil output decline, the NNPCL said the Federal Government would renegotiate the country’s production quota in the ongoing OPEC+ cuts by November.

The Group Chief Executive Officer of NNPC, Mele Kyari, during a live interview with Bloomberg, said the country was working towards ramping up crude oil production by about 200,000 to 300,000 barrels per day latest by October.

He noted that the country would push, thereafter, for an increased quota at the next OPEC+ meeting in November.

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