AS Niger Delta militant’s agitation for resource control made the creeks of the region dangerous for expatriate oil workers, leading to shut down of operations in the oil companies, the need for a safer ways of evacuating the nation’s crude became necessary.
Then, there were frequent news of kidnappings on the oil installations that dot the swamp and riverine communities and crude oil pipelines evacuating crude from the flow stations to other parts of the country and over seas were always vandalized.
The activities of these hoodlums led to the relocation of the functional offices of some oil companies out of the oil producing region to Lagos and Abuja as they lost so much oil revenue and sometimes life of oil workers.
It is no news that there are cabals who still live on bunkering, and they get their products from vandalized pipelines in the hinterlands, swamps and creeks of the Niger Delta region which are dangerous terrains, occupied by these groups of the nation’s saboteurs. But sadly the nation continues to loose several billions of revenue to these criminals with the connivance of security agencies.
Investigations has revealed that as at press time bunkering activities still go on unhindered within the Oghara-Koko axis of Delta State. The petrol tankers of a particular oil marketing company (Name withheld) is seen entering and coming out of the bush path that has a checking point mounted by soldiers at the entrance.
The flow of crude is always hampered and the crude evacuation capability of the oil firms operating in the region decreases as stealing intensifies, thereby threatening their multi-billion business. As they frequently shut down their operations any time a pipeline is vandalized, colossal sums of money are lost to these thieves in concert with powerful and well connected Nigerians including some unscrupulous officials of the nation’s security agencies.
To restore hope and confidence amongst all stakeholders, particularly in the oil industry, a proactive step was taken by Pan Ocean Oil Corporation, an indigenous exploration and production company in Nigeria’s upstream oil sector.
Propelled by the urgent need to encourage alternate field production potential of exploration and production companies as well as infrastructure development for Nigeria, Pan Ocean , Operator of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Pan Ocean Joint Venture awarded a contract for the construction of Amukpe-Escravos Pipelines Project, AEPP to Fenog Nigeria limited, an indigenous company in 2011.
The contract which involves installation of 20 inches pipeline across the 67 kilometers route will have capacity to handle 160,000 barrels of oil per day (BOPD) with remote manifolds to accommodate third parties crude oil evacuation to the Escravos Tank farm.
The AEPP project lead, Engineer John Okusolubo told journalists during a media briefing and tour of the facility that upon completion, AEPP will contribute significantly towards increasing Nigeria’s overall crude export with attendant impact on revenues, both for the government and other stakeholders.
In his words, “the AEPP, commissioned by Pan Ocean Oil Corporation, which is currently nearing completion, will also offer other operators within the region the opportunity to increase their crude evacuation capabilities.
The project which involves the use of continuous horizontal drilling that will pass underground became necessary because the oil producing areas have been prone to vandalism and the Niger Delta crisis.
This method to discourage vandalism, according to Engr. Okusolubo, a senior pipeline Engineer is being used for the first time in Nigeria. Before now, the oil companies have been evacuating their products through the Transfocados pipeline, plagued by vandalism. This has cost the nation and the oil companies a lot of money and retardation.
According to Engineer Okusolubo, for sixteen months, the oil company could not export products because the Transfocados line was completely damaged and that taught them a lesson not to depend on one line. The Amukpe Escravos 20 inches pipeline which is an alternative line will be the most secure in Nigeria history.
Expected to be completed by the third quarter of this year, all things being equal, the project which started in 2013 commenced from Amukpe metering station to terminate at Escravos Chevron Export terminal. This pipeline will also be used by other oil companies, such as Seplat, Conoil, Sahara, NPDC and Next Oil that have shown interest to evacuate their products for export through this line.
After the facility tour it was discovered that significant progress have been made on the project which crossed three major rivers, creeks, swamp and dry land. It is nearing completion with over ninety percent job done.
There is no doubt that the project has raised high hopes for increased national overall crude export and government revenue boost. However, with the completion of this project, the oil company will not completely do away with the Transfocados line; rather it will be an alternative as well as Pan Ocean main line.
It will also be empowering other operators in the region to increase their crude evacuation capabilities, grow its stature and profile as a leading sector player and contributing towards developing indigenous capacity and increased participation for Nigeria companies in the oil and gas sector.
As for oil bunkerers who delight in stealing from the vandalized pipelines, their days are numbered, because their access to petroleum products on this route that the pipelines will pass underground will be stopped.
Eubaldus Enahoro is Assistant Editor with the Nigerian Observer