While Nigeria’s oil output has risen more than 20% since August to almost 1.8 million barrels a day amid a fragile peace reached by the federal government with militants in the Niger Delta, the continual disruption caused by people trying to steal oil threatens plans to top 2 million a day, Bloomberg reports.
As much as 30% of the oil sent by pipelines through the swampy Niger River delta is stolen, consultant Wood Mackenzie Ltd. estimates. This deprives Nigeria of income amid a crippling recession and compounds the pain of a global price slump for Africa’s largest producer. Damage caused by theft, in terms of lost output and pollution, can be just as severe as from the armed attacks and bombings by rebels, which last year knocked out terminals including Shell’s Forcados and Qua Iboe, run by Exxon Mobil.
Companies are now using surveillance helicopters equipped with infrared cameras everyday. They’re also experimenting with drones and cages on wellheads rigged with alarms. But nothing seems to fix the problem. Nigeria LNG Ltd (a joint venture between Shell, Total SA, Eni SpA and the state oil company), has also looked at gas transport options other than pipelines, given their vulnerability, but so far hasn’t found an affordable alternative.