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ThisDayOnline: Niger Delta: Shell Shut-in Another 9,000 Bpd

By Crusoe Osagie with agency Reports, 10.07.2006

Rising hostilities between soldiers of the Joint Military Task Force and militants in the Niger Delta has forced Shell to shut in another 9,000 barrel per day of oil production.

The closure of the Ekulama 1 flow station east of the Niger Delta was the first impact on oil output from a surge in violence in the eastern part of the Niger Delta this week, and adds to almost 500,000 bpd shut by Shell since February in the west of the region.

“We have shut in another 9,000 b/d as a result of this week’s attacks in the east. This brings to total, 27,000 barrels per day (of oil production) that is shut in at our eastern operation,” a company source told THISDAY yesterday.

It was gathered that fighters with the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) stormed an oil workers’ houseboat at Ekulama on Wednesday in one of two confrontations with the military in which the militants said 17 soldiers were killed.

Fighting continued in the area on Thursday and industry sources said there were 35 speed boats full of militant fighters cruising around the creeks.

These sources said the militants had been shooting at pipelines, but a MEND spokesman said the pipelines were damaged by fire from the military’s helicopter gunship, Reuters reported.

“We have shut in another 9,000 b/d as a result of this week’s attacks in the east. This brings to total, 27,000 barrels per day (of oil production) that is shut in at our eastern operation,” the source said.

Fifteen soldiers on guard duty at Shell’s Cawthorne Channel were ambushed on Monday by about 70 militants using many boats in a surprise attack.

The militia group Joint Revolutionary Council claimed responsibility for the attack and called for the release of Ijaw leader, Mujahid Dokubo-Asari who is standing trial for corruption and treason in Abuja.

President Olusegun Obasanjo who met with military top hierarchy on Thursday called for new approach to checking the crisis in the region.

The Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Edmund Daukoru said on Wednesday that the country was losing 30 percent of its daily crude oil production due to insecurity in the Niger Delta region, a development that poses a serious threat to the income of the country.

Daukoru while commissioning one of the 12 floating mega filling stations to be deployed to the Niger Delta, said the continued violence in the delta has even cut down the share of oil revenue meant for oil producing states following the closure of oil wells.

Nigeria’s oil output averages 2.4 million b/d. Attacks on oil firs and kidnapping of workers have resulting in the loss of over 800,000 b/d of oil production.

The government had built the floating stations as one of the measures to assuage the anger of the people in  the Niger Delta region whose agitation for provision of social amenities has been behind the insurgence.Daukoru, who is also OPEC president said the three stations already built could not be deployed now,because of the renewed violence in the region.

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