The incident that occurred on Friday, March 1 in Nembe Community, Bayelsa state may have been caused by a breach, fresh reports have revealed.
On Saturday, there were media reports that an oil pipeline had exploded in Nembe with scores of people missing.
However, subsequent media reports indicate that the incidence was not a pipeline explosion but a fire at an oil well in the area, which had been quelled with no loss of lives.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), had on Saturday, said it has no record of any pipeline explosion in the Niger Delta.
“I have cross-checked with our downstream unit that manages our pipelines and they said that they didn’t have such records,” Ndu Ughamadu, NNPC’s Group General Manager, Public Affairs Division told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
Nigerian energy giant, Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company (AEEPCo), which operates the Nembe Creek Trunk Line corroborated NNPC’s statement.
In a statement signed by its management and released to the media, Aiteo said the Saturday, March 2 incidence was a fire in its oil well, and not a pipeline explosion as earlier stated in the initial media reports.
“A suspected explosion occurred within the vicinity of Nembe Creek Well 7, behind Mile 1 community in Bayelsa State, which is not too far from Nembe field logistics base (FLB). This incident did not occur at or involve any part of the NCTL or other pipelines,” Aiteo stated
Aiteo also debunked earlier reports that many people were missing or feared dead and that the incidence caused serious damage to the community.
“Preliminary investigations confirm that there were no fatalities; human incidents or damage to community property. All the wells and facilities in the immediate vicinity have been inspected and secured. It is important to note that prior to this incident, all facilities have been shut down since 28 of February 2019 due to NCTL outage.”
Meanwhile, as investigations continue on the source of the fire, an anonymous source close to Aiteo has revealed that third party infraction is strongly suspected.
“Although investigations are still ongoing, many people strongly suspect a breach. The explosion was not from a pipeline but from a flow station in the oil well, and the valves were intact. Judging from the point of explosion, only a third-party infraction could have been responsible,” the source said
Aiteo’s press statement also hints at the possibility of a breach.
“Full investigations to determine the cause of the fire and, in particular, to determine whether this may have been caused by third-party infractions, remain ongoing. These investigations are being pursued with the utmost urgency and have been given the highest priority,” part of the statement from reads.
Fires at oil facilities, arising from oil theft and with huge losses to oil companies and the government, are common in the Niger Delta.
In May 2014, the former Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in one of her numerous appearances at the House of Representatives Joint Committee on Appropriation/Finance in Abuja stated:
“We are losing revenue; 400,000 barrels of crude oil are lost on a daily basis due to illegal bunkering, vandalism and production shut-in.”
Her words: “I have to clarify that it is not as if the entire 400,000 barrels is stolen, no. What happens is that whenever the pipelines are attacked and oil is taken, there is a total shutdown. All the quantity of oil produced for that day will be lost because it means government cannot sell it and it means a drop in revenue.”