Nigeria: Fear of environmental disaster after pipeline explosion

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An explosion occurred on a pipeline operated by Italian oil giant ENI in southern Nigeria, causing a reduction in exports and an oil spill, its Nigerian subsidiary said on Monday.

The ENI-led joint venture Naoc said an explosion occurred at its facility in Nembe, Bayelsa State, reducing exports from the Brass terminal by 25,000 barrels per day (bpd). "An incident occurred on the 24 Ogoda/Brass oil line" at Okparatubo in Nembe Local Government Area. "The event was caused by an explosion, which resulted in a spill," it said.

The company said wells connected to the pipeline were immediately shut down while booms and containment barges were mobilised to reduce the impact of the oil leak. ENI did not give further details on the cause of the explosion.

In Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer, oil companies are regularly blamed for environmental disasters, as are criminal groups who drill into pipelines to loot crude.

According to the company, this is the second explosion in a matter of days, following an earlier incident on 28 February at its Obama flow station that led to a 5,000 b/d drop in production.

The director of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (Nosdra), Idris Musa, said both explosions were caused by vandalism. He said 20 barrels leaked in the first incident and 1,250 barrels were spilt in the second.

Residents of fishing villages operating in the creeks and near the Atlantic coastline in Nembe and Brass have complained about the negative consequences of frequent spills in the area.

"Every time there is a spill, our nets and other fishing gear are soaked with crude oil, they are doomed and we can no longer use them because the smell of crude oil scares away the fish," lamented Noel Ikonikumo, president of a local fishermen's union. "We have written to the companies concerned to hear us and help us, but we have not received any response."

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