WARRI, Nigeria – Shell closed the terminal exporting Nigeria’s benchmark Bonny Light crude oil on Wednesday and was evacuating workers from a threatened oil field as renewed militant attacks cut production in Africa’s biggest petroleum producer, the company and a union leader said.
Three soldiers guarding an oil installation were shot and killed when they came under fierce attack Monday, Col. Isa Ado said Wednesday. He is spokesman for the Joint Military Force in the embattled and oil-rich Niger Delta.
Shell began evacuating workers Wednesday from its offshore Bonga oilfield following a militant threat, said Ojobor Cogent, zonal chairman of the NUPENG oil workers union. He said oil production was continuing there.
Shell spokesman Precious Okolobo refused to confirm the evacuation, saying only that the company is “taking all possible steps to ensure the safety of staff and contractors.”
Okolobo said Wednesday that Shell declared force majeure on Bonny exports effective 1100 GMT the day before — a move protecting it from contractual obligations — citing a leak on the Nembe pipeline. Pipeline operator Aiteo Exploration said the trunkline was damaged in an attack.
Nigeria’s production was down to 1.68 million barrels a day from 2.2 million, Eurasia Group risk assessment said before Bonny’s closure.
A bomb last week closed Chevron’s Escravos oil and gas facility. Shell’s Forcados export terminal has been shut since an undersea export pipeline was attacked in February.
A new group, the Niger Avengers, has claimed responsibility. They want a bigger share of Nigeria’s oil wealth and are angry about cuts to an amnesty program that paid militants to guard the installations they once attacked.
There are suggestions the violence is being fueled by some Christian politicians in the oil-producing south opposed to President Muhammadu Buhari, a northern Muslim. Eurasia Group said the sophistication of recent attacks points to such a scenario and would indicate the Avenger group “poses a greater threat than its small numbers and scant grassroots support would indicate.”