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Shell shuts Nigerian oilfield after rebels attack

Shell shuts Nigerian oilfield after rebels attack 

By Russell Hotten, Industry Editor

Last Updated: 11:58pm BST 19/06/2008



Royal Dutch Shell has been forced to shut one of Africa’s biggest oilfields after Nigerian militants staged the first attack of its kind on a giant deepwater production vessel floating more than 75 miles offshore. 

The shutdown yesterday cut Nigeria’s oil output by 10pc and raised fears of an escalation of attacks on Western energy companies operating there. 

Previous attacks have been on onshore pipelines, with companies regarding their offshore facilities as relatively immune to the growing violence in Nigeria Delta region. 

About 20 members of the rebel Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) used three speedboats to strike Shell’s Bonga field off the Nigerian coast. The $3.6bn (£1.9bn) facility can produce 220,000 barrels a day.

The militants fired on the platform, but it is not thought that they managed to scale it. The extent of the damage was also unknown last night, but news agency Reuters reported that three workers were injured. Shell said it had sent in a team via helicopter to investigate and did not know how long the oilfield would be closed.

In an email, MEND said it would not be the last deepwater attack. “The location for today’s attack was deliberately chosen to remove any notion that offshore oil exploration is far from our reach,” the group said. “Oil and gas tankers are warned to avoid Nigerian waters. They stand the risk of laden crude oil or natural gas tankers being attacked.”

International oil companies have increasingly focused on offshore projects in Nigeria to offset the risk to onshore operations, where a violent campaign has led to a string of kidnappings and cut oil output by a fifth in recent years.

Pipelines in the region are exposed and often unguarded, making them easy targets.

The platform attacked yesterday acts as a giant oil storage facility, where tankers fill up with crude and take it to refineries worldwide. MEND said its main target had been Bonga’s control room, from where crude exports are co-ordinated, but it had been unable to gain access. “Our next visit will be different,” the group said.

Fears of supply disruption in Nigeria, home to sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest oil industry, have sent jitters through an already volatile global oil market.

ExxonMobil operates the Erha field and Chevron is bringing its 250,000-barrel-a-day Agbami venture – Nigeria’s biggest offshore development – onstream. Britain’s BG Group has revealed big investment plans for Nigeria.

After the Bonga attack, MEND gunmen seized the US captain of another supply vessel working for oil services firm Tidex, contracted to Chevron. MEND said it kidnapped the man to bargain for the release of prisoners held by the Nigerian government. and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.

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