Rebel attack shuts Shell's Bonga FPSO production

Shell has shut down production at its Bonga FPSO vessel following an attack by fighters of Nigeria's MEND.

Eric Watkins
Senior Correspondent

LOS ANGELES, June 20 -- Royal Dutch Shell PLC has shut down production at its Bonga floating production, storage, and offloading vessel following an attack by fighters of Nigeria's Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), who also kidnapped—and later released—a US worker from a supply vessel operated by Tidex Nigeria.

A spokesman for Shell's Nigeria venture acknowledged the attack and said production at the 225,000 b/d facility had been shut in. The spokesman said an evaluation of the facility was under way but did not state when it would be complete or whether the firm would declare force majeure.

MEND said it launched the attack in open-hulled boats that traveled through heavy seas to attack the Bonga oil field more than 100 km offshore. But they were not able to enter a computer control room that they had hoped to destroy.

"The main computerized control room responsible for coordinating the entire crude oil export operations from the fields was our main target," MEND said. "Our detonation engineers could not gain access to blow it up but decided against smoking out the occupants by burning down the facility to avoid loss of life."

Following the incident, Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua directed his country's armed forces to step up security at all oil facilities in the Niger Delta and to apprehend the perpetrators of the attack, which he called "a national sabotage."

"While the federal government remains fully committed to the rapid resolution of problems and grievances of the people of the Niger Delta, it will not shirk its constitutional responsibility for law and order, as well as the safety of lives and property in the Niger Delta and all other parts of Nigeria," Adeniyi said.

Meanwhile, the incident concerning Shell's operation coincided with denials of a second attack on facilities operated by Chevron Corp. in Nigeria. A Chevron spokesman said the company had no indication of a rebel attack on its oil infrastructure in the country and said operations were proceeding normally. The denial followed earlier claims by MEND that it knew of an attack on Chevron facilities, while denying that its personnel were involved.

Earlier this month, unidentified militants in southern Nigeria ambushed a naval vessel guarding an offshore concession operated by Addax Petroleum Corp., killing one person and wounding several others (OGJ Online, June 9, 2008).

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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