Chevron: breached pipeline causes oil outage

A Chevron tanker truck unloads gasoline into underground storage tanks in Burbank, Calfiornia in this June 18, 2008 file photo. The oil firm confirmed that it had to shut down its onshore production in Nigeria following a militant attack. (REUTERS)

Chevron Corp said on Saturday that a breached Nigerian pipeline has prompted the company to shut down its onshore oil production.

Nigerian media reported that militants sabotaged the pipeline in the southern Niger Delta late Thursday. But the region’s most-potent armed group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, told The Associated Press it was not involved.

US-based Chevron said in a statement on Saturday that it shut off its onshore production after the pipeline breach to protect the environment, but gave no firm figures on how much production would be lost. Oil industry officials said the loss would be around 120,000 barrels per day.

After repeated media inquiries, Chevron said on Friday it was not able to confirm an explosion had taken place.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, which is known as Mend, attacked a remote offshore facility run by Royal Dutch Shell on Thursday, underscoring the vulnerability of Africa’s biggest oil producer. That attack slashed about 200,000 barrels per day of Nigerian crude oil production, adding to the 20 percent of production already shut down by militant attacks.

While bombings on Nigeria’s extensive and virtually unguarded pipeline infrastructure are common, high-seas attacks like Thursday’s are rare and the assault was the furthest-ever offshore incident involving militants.

Militants stepped up their activities in early 2006, with Mend emerging as the region’s best-trained armed gang.

Their campaign of bombings and kidnappings seeks to force Nigeria’s central government to send more oil-industry revenues it controls to the southern region, which is deeply impoverished despite its great natural bounty.