The operator of the Nembe Creek Trunk Line—one of the two key pipelines of Nigeria’s Bonny Light crude grade capable of transporting 150,000 bpd to the export terminal—declared on Sunday force majeure, due to a fire suspected to have been the result of an illegal third-party breach.
“Our Operations Emergency Response team was immediately activated and following its urgent intervention and containment action, we are constrained to shut in injection as well as other related operations into the NCTL. In accordance with standard procedure, we requested the other injectors to do same,” Nigerian operator Aiteo said in a statement, as carried by Sahara Reporters.
Before the fire broke out, the Nembe Creek Trunk Line was operating smoothly, which raises suspicion that the fire was the result of an “illegitimate, third-party breach of the functionality of the pipeline,” the statement by Aiteo spokesman Ndiana Matthew said.
Investigations into the cause of the fire continue and the stakeholders will be briefed in details in due course, said the company.
Two months ago, a fire erupted in an area around the Nembe Creek Trunk Line, but then Aiteo said that the pipeline was not impacted by the fire. At that time in early March, Shell, whose Nigerian unit operates exports from the Bonny Light terminal, said that there was no force majeure declared on Nigeria’s Bonny Light exports.
Bonny Light is a popular grade among refiners globally and its production is 200,000 bpd-250,000 bpd. The Bonny Light terminal or the pipelines feeding crude to the export facility were subject to many disruptions and declarations of force majeure in 2016 and 2017, when militant activity across the Niger Delta was frequently shutting oil exports from Nigeria.
Now, any potential disruption of the Bonny Light crude oil exports in the coming days or weeks could further tighten an already tightening market with the U.S. reportedly aiming at zero Iranian oil exports and tightening the sanctions on Venezuela, plus unrest in Libya, and continued cuts by OPEC and allies.