Nigerian gas pipeline fire triggers blackouts

09 January 2018, Week 01, Issue 721

Nigeria’s energy sector began 2108 with a somewhat rocky start last week, after a fire at the Escravos-Lagos natural gas pipeline disrupted supplies to several power plants near the major southern city of Edo causing blackouts.

The sudden loss of generation at these stations as a result of the gas supply interruption caused the country’s national transmission grid to trip on January 2 just after 8pm local time, the Nigerian Power, Works and Housing Ministry said.

The power plants affected by the pipeline fire were responsible for generating more than 3,000 MW of electricity. They include the country’s biggest generator – the Egbin power plant – as well as the Lagos, Olorunsogo, PEL Olorunsogo, Ogun, Paras, and Ogun and Omotosho plants, according to the ministry.

Fire fighting

The blaze is suspected to have been caused by a bush fire at Abakia in Ondo State, rather than any foul play, according to Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. (NNPC) spokesman Ndu Ughamadu, who added that gas supply to customers in Ondo, Ogun and Lagos States would be affected.

“NNPC firemen were drafted to the scene and were able to contain the fire from the leak point of the pipeline incident,” he said. “However, the fire could not be extinguished due to the high pressure of the line.”

On January 3, NNPC managing director Maikanti Baru ordered an immediate assessment of damage caused by the fire. Putting out the fire would require the isolation and depressurisation of the pipeline, with repair work potentially necessitating a complete shutdown of the pipeline segment, he said.

The Escravos-Lagos pipeline is owned by NNPC subsidiary Nigerian Gas Processing and Transportation. It supplies gas from Escravos in the Niger Delta area to Lagos, and also supplies gas to power plants in the country’s southwest and feeds the West Africa Gas Pipeline System.

As such, the incident could have wider repercussions, raising concerns that supplies of gas to Ghana – which generates around 25% of its power from Nigerian gas – will be affected.

Vulnerabilities

Ghana has a contract with Nigeria to receive around 120 mmcf (3.4 mcm) per day of gas, although supplies have regularly been curtailed in recent years, mostly owing to a pick-up in militant activity in Nigeria as well as rows over pricing.

The fire highlights the ongoing vulnerability of Nigeria’s ageing pipeline infrastructure, whose poor state of maintenance makes it prone to leaks and fires while theft and militant attacks remain a continued threat.

In September and October 2017, pipeline leaks and vandalism in the Niger Delta may have been responsible for production shut-ins that cost Nigeria around 490.11 billion naira (US$1.36 billion), according to NNPC data. The country lost 681,000 bpd during the two months owing to shutdowns at the Bonny, Qua Iboe, Bonga and Forcados terminals, the data showed. 

The Bonny oil terminal was impacted by leaks on the Nembe Creek Trunk Line, which triggered a 16-day force majeure that effectively shut in around 120,000 bpd.

Around 195,000 bpd were also shut in for the whole of October 2017 at the Qua Iboe terminal owing to slow recovery at some wells plus repairs on the 42-inch export line and fuel gas line.

The Trans Forcados pipeline was also shut down for eight days due to leaks in the Oteghele and Yeye axis, with the loss of around 200,000 bpd of production.

Between October 2016 and October 2017, NNPC recorded a total of 970 vandalised points on its network. The situation has improved slightly however from 2016, when an average 700,000 bpd of crude oil production was deferred owing to pipeline sabotage, according to Baru.

Edited by

Ed Reed

Editor

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