Nigeria: Set-Back As Militants Blow Up Gas Plant

The peace process in the Niger Delta has come under threat with yesterday’s bombing of the Utorogu Gas Plant, Delta State, by suspected militants.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the latest attack, which is coming as a jolt to the presidential amnesty deal with militants.

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Nigeria’s precarious electricity situation – which had improved slightly to about 2,400 megawatts recently – will be further worsened as the Utorogu plant, operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), supplies 300mm standard cubic feet (scf) of gas, which is the equivalent of 1,000mw.

The plant has now been shut down and the national power generation has subsequently dropped to 1,400mw, although the country needs in excess of 6,000mw to enjoy stable power supply.

The Egbin plant in Lagos, which has an installed capacity of 1,320mw but had been producing close to 600mw in the last few days, will lose about 400mw as a result of the latest incident, THISDAY has learnt.

Hopes that Nigeria will attain 6,000mw by the end of this year have been dashed as well.

The incident, which occurred around 4am, may result in total blackout, it was feared in industry circle last night.

The Utorogu Gas plant and Chevron’s Escravos Gas plant are the main sources of gas supply to the Nigerian Gas Company (NGC), which supplies gas to the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) for the generation of electricity in the various gas-fired power plants across the country.

Utorogu is currently the only major source of gas supply as the Escravos gas plant, which has suffered a series of attacks, is currently undergoing repairs.

The contractor handling the damaged Escravos-Lagos pipeline only returned to site at the weekend after Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State succeeded in resolving the impasse over the repair of the pipeline.

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Utorogu supplies power stations run by the state-owned utility and industrial users. The plant is part of a joint venture in which Shell owns 30 per cent, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) 55 per cent, Total SA 10 per cent and Eni SpA 5 per cent.

The plant had been shut down since April 1 owing to leakages, a development that led to the shutting down of Olorunsogo, Omotosho and Delta power stations, which depend on the plant for gas.

Sapele Power Station had been shut down since November 2008, owing to lack of gas while Shiroro hydro power plant has been out of operation due to obsolete equipment.

Following the completion of repair on the faulty areas, the plant was reopened last month for gas supply to the NGC.

The gas plant was only reopened last month after repair works.

Power Ministry Spokesperson, Mrs. Olubunmi Badejo, who confirmed the attack to THISDAY, said the incident may lead to a drop in generation capacity by about 1,000mw.

According to her, “Nigeria currently generates between 2,200 and 2,400mw, but this ugly development, which affected the only major source of gas, means a further reduction in generating capacity.

“The Utorogu gas plant in Warri was blasted in the early hours of today (yesterday). The plant was shut down at 04.12 hours. Our team in the company of the Joint Task Force has gone to assess the damage to proffer fastest repair option. The ministry will keep you informed about further developments,” she said in a text message yesterday.

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Also confirming the attack in a statement last night, General Manager (Public Affairs, at the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), Mrs. Efuru Igbo, said the incident would result in about 500mw reduction from the current generating capacity.

The statement read: “The Management of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) regrets to inform the general public that just as the nation had started recording improvement in the supply of electricity, it received notice from the Nigerian Gas Company (NGC) on Thursday, 13th August 2009 to further reduce output from the Egbin Power Station. According to NGC, this was caused by vandalism of the Utorogu pipeline, which supplies gas to the Egbin Power Station.

“The disruption means a further reduction in generation capacity from the station of about 500 megawatts. It is on record that due to gas supply limitation, Sapele Power Station has been shut down since November 2008, while Geregu, Omotosho and Olosunsogo Power Stations are similarly affected. In the circumstance, we are appealing to our esteemed customers, the media and other stakeholders for understanding and continued support as the NGC has assured us of immediate repairs. We promise to keep you informed of further developments and assure of our determination for a sustainable power supply to the nation.”

The generating capacity of the nation’s 10 power stations has for years dropped drastically, owing to lack of gas supply.

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Meanwhile, the people of Iwhrekan in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State, have expressed dismay at yesterday’s attack on the gas plant, which they said had put the community in great danger of air and water pollution and possible fire outbreak.

Reacting to the latest attack on oil and gas facility in the area especially amid calls for co-operation with the Federal Government towards the successful implementation of the presidential amnesty, the Iwhrekan people described the action of the attackers as “cruel and unreasonable”.

They said in a statement yesterday that only a gang of “callous criminals” could have carried out such a dastardly act, “which has now made our people to be battling for their lives, without sparing a thought for even the immediate consequence of their action”.

They said that they were jolted by “the offensive smell coming out of the blown-up facility”.

According to the statement signed by Mr. Peter Rupleni and Mr. Jonah Gbemre, Chairman and Secretary of the community, respectively, “Iwhrekan is peace-loving community, which would not collude with any persons or groups to perpetrate such an evil that could disrupt the peace and health of the people”.

The community, the statement said, has had a longstanding congenial relationship with SPDC, NGC and other firms operating in the locality.

According to the statement: “We were amazed with the noise and offensive smell as a result of the explosion that happened around 3.30am on 13th August, 2009, for we have experience this kind of attack since inception.

“Our women and youths were thrown into confusion as fear griped everybody for the fear of a fire outbreak. Some persons were seen relocating for the fear of being exposed to harmful and dangerous gases emitting into the atmosphere.

“We hereby call on Nigerian Gas Company (NGC) to find a major solution and put a stop to the offensive mayhem even as we condemn the attack in its entirety because we are peace loving people and we do not habour criminals in our community.

“While reiterating our resolve not to allow a third party to soil our community’s good name, we call on security operatives not to relent in tracking down the perpetrators of the ugly act.”

They said it was unprecedented in their land.

Iwhrekan Community plays host to many oil and gas facilities among which are the gigantic gas plant and a gas manifold with over 16 oil and gas wells.

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