Monday, June 7, 2010

Exxon Nigerian Unit Oil Spill Caused by Corrosion

By Dulue Mbachu

(Bloomberg) -- An oil spill that occurred in fields operated by Exxon Mobil Corp.’s Nigerian unit last month was caused by corrosion to pipelines, the country’s National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency said.

The pipeline links Exxon Mobil’s Usan and Idoho offshore production platforms to its Qua Iboe crude export terminal, Idris Musa, head of the oil spill and detection department of the agency, said in an interview in the capital, Abuja, today.

“Mobil agreed that some 232 barrels of crude were spilled” from the pipeline between May 1 and May 4, Musa said. “It’s clear it wasn’t sabotage,” he said, citing the outcome of a joint investigation by his agency, Exxon Mobil officials and representatives of the state oil company and other regulatory agencies.

Exxon Mobil, holding a 40 percent stake in a joint venture it operates for majority partner, state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp., invoked force majeure on May 12, a legal clause that allows it to miss export obligations citing damage to a pipeline feeding the Qua Iboe Terminal.

“The force majeure is still on,” Yemi Fakayejo, a spokesman for the company in Nigeria, said by phone from Lagos today. He declined to comment on Nigerian spill agency’s conclusion that corrosion caused the leak.

Fakayejo said the leak has been stopped and repair works are being carried out. Exxon Mobil didn’t reveal how much output has been shut in. The company produces 720,000 barrels a day of crude, condensate and natural gas liquids from 90 offshore platforms in the country, according to its website.

Oil Spills

Nigeria, which vies with Angola for Africa’s top oil producer, is the fifth-biggest source of U.S. oil imports. Apart from corrosion and other technical failures, armed attacks targeting oil installations have caused oil spills in the main oil-producing River Niger delta, Musa said.

Attacks have dropped since thousands of rebels fighting for local control of oil revenue in the delta region accepted a government amnesty last year.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Chevron Corp., Chevron Corp., Total SA and Eni SpA also operate joint ventures with the state oil company known as NNPC.

--Editors: Raj Rajendran, Steve Voss.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dulue Mbachu in Lagos at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Voss at

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