Shell reopens Nigeria pipeline amid spill claims

Oil pipelines criss-cross the Niger Delta06 July 2013, Lagos – Anglo-Dutch supermajor Shell has reopened the Trans Niger Pipeline after repairing a valve point and removing oil theft connections, it said on Friday, but a local environmental NGO said 6000 barrels of oil had been spilt, according to reports.

The pipeline (TNP) was closed on 20 June after an explosion and fire at a “crude theft point” deferring 150,000 barrels per day.

“The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) has repaired the valve point and removed six other crude oil theft connections,” the company said in a statement seen by Reuters.

A member of an environmental watchdog, who declined to be named, told the news wire he had seen large amounts of oil that had spilt into the waters around the pipeline over the past few days.

In a statement, the Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN), a local NGO, said 6000 barrels of oil had been spilt. Shell’s statement said there had been a “residual leak”, but did not say how much oil had spilt.

Shell said a “clean up would be carried out in due course”.

Nigerian military authorities said last week they had arrested eight people working for companies contracted by Shell, in connection with the pipeline fire.

Environmental groups say Shell’s 50-year-old infrastructure in the Ogoniland area is decrepit and must be shut down or replaced.

“The TNP continues to be operated decades past its safe limit with oversight that is limited at best,” the SDN said.

But Shell rejects that argument.

“Shutting down the pipeline is not the answer … the pipelines are healthy and fit for service,” said Mutiu Sunmonu, Managing Director of SPDC, a Shell-run joint venture with the state and other oil majors.

“The only way to ensure the TNP operates optimally without being shut down regularly for repairs is to stop the thriving crude theft activities,” he added.

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