By Angela Henshall Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES LONDON (Dow Jones)--A force majeure declared on May and June exports of key Nigerian benchmark Bonny Light crude has been lifted, Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSA) said Monday.
Force majeure is a term in a contract that can be invoked when conditions beyond the control of the company make it impossible to fulfill the terms to which it originally agreed.
"I can confirm the force majeure in place on May/June Bonny Light off-take, that was shut down after a leak on the Trans-Niger pipeline, has been lifted with effect May 21" said Kirsten Smart, spokeswoman for Anglo-Dutch oil giant.
She also said production at the field had now resumed and was being ramped-up to full capacity.
Brent crude futures shrugged off the news. Disruption has recently lent some support to spot prices according to traders, with key grades Bonny Light and Qua Iboe currently pegged at a premium of $1.20 to $1.30 over the North Sea benchmark.
The company was forced to shut-down oil flow through the 150,000-barrel-a-day capacity Trans-Niger pipeline in Nigeria following the discovery of a number of fires and oil leaks along the line May 7.
Shell's Nigerian oil infrastructure has been frequently targeted in recent years by people attempting to steal oil, or by deliberate sabotage. The company reported earlier in May that the amount of oil spilled due to sabotage and theft in the Niger Delta last year more than doubled to 13,900 metric tons.
In the past couple of years unrest in the Delta, Nigeria's primary producing region, has cost thousands of barrels a day of lost crude production. Although in the first quarter 2010 there were few attacks reported on pipelines and oil hubs, in the last month there has been disruption at Shell's Forcados and Qua Iboe fields, and problems at Eni SpA's (E) Brass River facility, forcing a series of forces majeure.
The way the measure is implemented varies according to the nature of the disruption to supply, often depending on whether crude can be bypassed through different pipelines to buyers at its original destination or an alternative, or how much can be diverted this way and for how long.
The group that claims responsibility for the majority of attacks on Nigeria's energy infrastructure, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND, says it continues to fight for a bigger share of the region's oil wealth.
It remains to be seen whether Nigeria's new President Goodluck Jonathan will be able to reinstate a lasting ceasefire with the militant groups. His predecessor Umaru Yar'Adua was able to negotiate a shaky peace deal for a few months towards the end of 2009, but this later collapsed.
-By Angela Henshall, Dow Jones Newswires; +44 (0)20 7842 9285; firstname.lastname@example.org