Oil Theft: Shell Threatens to Shut Down Nembe Creek Trunk Line
The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) has threatened to shut down the entire Nembe Creek Trunk Line (NCTL) following increasing incidents of pipeline vandalism and crude theft according to news reports.
It said the Military Joint Task Force (JTF) appeared to have been overwhelmed by the activities of the vandals, a claim the force has also denied.
Addressing journalists, the Managing Director of SPDC and Country Chairman, Shell Companies in Nigeria, Mr. Mutiu Sunmonu, said the situation in the past few weeks had become alarming and called on the JTF to step up its activities in the area.
He said the company loses about 60,000 barrels per day to the activities of the criminals and that the country is in a crisis as a result of this.
He further stated that “The volume being stolen is the highest in the last three years; over 60,000 barrels per day from Shell alone. So, that for me is a great concern.
“The other important point for me is the fact that over time, this whole crime has gotten a lot more sophisticated and you could see that the perpetrators are now setting up barge building yards, they are setting up storage facilities, they are setting up tank farms for storing the crude, prior to shipping out.
“So, if you look at all of these, it is very clear to me that this is not just an act by desperate individuals trying to make a living. This certainly is a well funded criminal activity, probably involving international syndicates.
“I really want to put it to you that we are in a crisis. We are in a crisis as a country because this is something which I worry is beyond the capacity of any individual company or beyond the capacity of a country to solve. We really need concerted efforts nationally, locally and internationally to actually get this under control.
“It’s really going to cause a big devastation, but I really worry about crude oil theft. Frankly speaking, my worry is not about the economy per se, the economy itself is huge, but I worry more about the devastation, the devastation for the people of Niger Delta, the destruction it will cause to the social and environmental aspect of the people of the delta and to Nigeria as a whole.”
He lamented that the situation was becoming uncontrollable and that the company might consider shutting down the entire trunk line to save the environment from complete devastation.
“I really want to make the point that we are in a crisis and I cannot as MD of SPDC in all good conscience, just continue to put my head in the sand. This is really getting to the crunch I must say, it is getting to the crunch that rather than allow people to continue to attack my pipeline and devastate the environment, I may actually consider shutting in the pipeline completely. So, it is getting to that crunch point and I hope that every hand will really join us in actually getting this under control,” .
He said although the theft covered the entire length of the pipeline, the areas worst affected were the Kakrama and Awoba stretch of the trunk line.
On Shell’s collaboration with host communities to check vandalism, Sunmonu said, “This is beyond communities, this is well funded and heavily armed gangs. What type of collaboration with communities will help you against people carrying guns, people who are very well armed? It is a reality that we have to face. You can’t even put the poor boys in the communities at risk, you can’t.”
He said the JTF would need to step up their activities for any semblance of normalcy to return to the area, adding that at the peak of JTF activities, there was a significant drop in vandalism.
“Well, if you look at what happened between July or August and November and probably December last year, we saw a significant drop in the amount of crude oil that is being stolen. But, in January and February this year, it has gone back up. So that is a challenge for the JTF to also look into. I mean let’s not underestimate the cleverness of the people who are perpetrating this act, and I have always said with 6, 000 km network of flowline and pipeline, even if you throw the entire Nigerian Army into the creeks, it is not going to solve the problem. So, am sure these guys are monitoring what is going on, they are moving to areas of resistance. So, it is a combination of things, but certainly we have seen that when the JTF really went after it, we got results,”