Nigeria’s total gas production may have been cut by almost 50 per cent in the month of January following relentless breaks on the trans-Forcados crude oil pipeline.
Consequently, available gas for supply to thermal electricity generation companies in the country has dropped.
The Group Executive Director, Gas and Power of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. David Ige, said weekend in Abuja that within January 2015, the Trans Forcados pipeline, a major pipeline that conveys crude oil from oil fields in Oben, Sapele and Oredo amongst others had recorded up to four major breaks across its length, resulting in huge capacity drops.
Ige explained that within this period, the pipeline had not recorded uninterrupted operation for up to four days before another break was inflicted by vandals.
“We’ve had the Trans Forcados Pipeline vandalised almost once every week for the last couple of weeks and it is not just a recent outage,” Ige said.
He continued: “From the first of January this year and today, the pipe has been vandalised, we fixed it and it is vandalised again and again and we are in the fourth phase of fixing the pipeline in three weeks and that is not just the beginning because it has been like this consistently for many months.”
“Usually, the guys go there and drill holes and in some cases, they kill security operatives that try to stop them. The implication of the Trans Forcados is that it is a major artery that evacuates most of the crude oil from production facilities at Oben, Sapele, Utorogun and others.
“We have two Forcados which is the main export terminals and the implication of that is that whenever this pipeline is out, we lose gas production from Oben, Sapele, Oredo and Utorogun and that immediately accounts for almost 40 to 50 per cent of our entire gas production in the country,” he added.
Ige who also expressed the difficulties encountered in getting the pipeline back on stream, said: “It takes us quite sometimes to repair because typical repairs takes about four to five days depending on how many holes we find. Sometimes after repairing, we realise that additional holes have been drilled somewhere because what happens is that when you want to repair the pipeline, you have to depressurise it and that now gives them additional time to drill more holes somewhere down the line and different from where the original attack had happened.”
He said: “This has been consistent and has become a major frustration for us and all the efforts for increased volumes of gas for power is affected by this on and off.
“An additional challenge is that when the pipeline is out and you fix it, it takes us several days to get our production back up to capacity because the wells take time to build up capacity and so it is not just a kind of switch on and off but that we lose time, money and sometimes when we get back up to capacity, the line is blown off again.”
He noted that like Trans Forcados, the Trans Niger on the eastern axis also experiences similar frequency and level of vandalism, adding that: “The implication of Trans Niger been out is that the Afam and Okpai power plants go out and our supply of gas to a lot of our customers on the eastern axis is affected.
“I do not know what drives it but I do know that in the last couple of months, the intensity has been increased and like I said, since January 1, the Trans Forcados has not been up for about three days in a row without been hit and you can only link that to outright criminality and we know that increase in the last few weeks has been unusual,” he explained.