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Vanguard (Nigeria): Fresh pipeline fire rages in Delta

By Emma Amaize
Posted to the Web: Saturday, October 13, 2007

*Unknown number burnt to death siphoning product

*Shell declares ‘force majeure’

WARRI —  THE Shell  Petroleum Development Company (SPDC)’s 10 -inch Utorogu-Ughelli Pumping Station condensate trunkline in Delta state exploded, yesterday evening while condensate thieves who used the product to contaminate kerosene were busy siphoning product from the pipeline.

The SPDC shut down the Utorogu gas plant, which feeds the line, and declared a Force Majeure on gas supplies to the national grid while efforts were being made to evacuate the condensate. Condensate is a by-product of gas and the company  must evacuate the product if it is to continue to produce gas. Some 300 million standard cubic feet of gas has been deferred as a result of the fire explosion.

Confirming the loss to the nation, a senior official of the company told Saturday Vanguard yesterday: “We regret any inconvenience the shortfall might cause and will work hard to extinguish the fire, repair the line and resume supplies as soon as possible.”

It could  not be ascertained last night the number of casualties but a source said that some of the  condensate thieves died in the explosion. There were several burnt and submerged boats, as well as abandoned hoses and drums around the scene.

An official of the Shell Petroleum Development Company, Mr. Precious Okolobo confirmed that the company got the report of the fire and sent an helicopter to overfly the affected area.

According to him, “the cause of the fire is not immediately known. Helicopter overfly confirmed the fire to be on the outskirts of Otor-Edo in Ughelli South Local Government Area, with several burnt and submerged boats as well as abandoned hoses and drums sighted around the scene.”

“SPDC quickly informed the relevant government agencies and mobilized a fire-fighting team to the area. However, the fire is in a remote area and it may take some time before the team gets to the scene,” he said.

A joint investigation team comprising regulators, government agencies, community representatives and SPDC officials is expected  to visit the area today to ascertain the cause of the fire and impact.

“The fire reinforces a recent trend of large-scale theft of condensate from SPDC facilities. SPDC is concerned that the practice has continued uninterrupted despite our appeals to the contrary,” Okolobo added.

http://www.vanguardngr.com/articles/2002/headline/f113102007.html

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