The Federal Government is no longer too sure as to when it will actualize its Gas Masterplan as it has expressed deep concern that acts of vandalisation of gas pipeline infrastructure has led to shortages in gas supply thus detouring government’s gas-to-power initiative.
Group Executive Director, Gas, at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Dr. David Ige, who made the disclosure said many security operatives have lost their lives in the process of trying to guard the pipelines.
According to him, the activities of vandals, which have been on the increase lately, is significantly threatening the success of the Gas Masterplan, especially for gas supply across the country.
He said, “The Trans-Forcados gas pipeline vandalism is almost every week now, and it has been going on for some time. In fact, from the first of January till today the pipeline has been vandalised several times, and each time we have tried to fix it – we are on the third phase of fixing the pipelines.
“It has been vandalized consistently, what happened is that the guys go and drill holes in multiple points in the pipe; in some cases, they kill the security operatives that come to intervene. This is how gruesome it has become,” he added.
Ige noted that the implication of activities of the vandals on the Trans-Focardo is clear. “It is a major outreach. It evacuates most of the crude oil from our production facilities at Oben, Sapele, Utorogun and so on through Forcados which is the main export terminal.
“The implication is that when the pipeline is out, we lose gas production from Oben, Sapele, Oredo and Utorogun that immediately account for almost 40 to 50 per cent of entire gas production in the country.
“It takes some time to repair – a typical repair takes about four to five days depending on how many holes we find. Sometimes, after repairing you realise that additional holes have been drilled because what happens is that when you want to repair the pipeline you have to depressurise the line which gives the vandals sufficient time to go and drill more holes downstream from where there original attack happened.”
According to Ige, “This has been consistent; it has become a major frustration for us and all the efforts we have been putting because we have been doing significantly well in bringing in new gas production, that will bring the visible impact on power but the off and on of the pipeline is a challenge for us”.
“The additional challenge we have is that when the pipeline is out it takes a lot of time before we could bring it back to get our production capacity because it takes a long time to build up the capacity. It is not just what we do on and off, we lose time, we lose money. Sometimes, before we get capacity back up, the pipeline is blown up again,” he added.
He explained that vandalisation is not limited to Forcados, adding that, “We have the same problem on the Trans-Niger pipeline on the eastern side of Nigeria that also get vandalised similarly on the same frequency and the implication of the pipeline being out, is that the Afam power plant goes out, the Okpai power plant goes out and the supply of gas to a lot of our customers is impacted immediately – that is a lot of challenge for us.”
Ige said he had no explanation for what drives the vandalism but noted that in the last couple of months, particularly in the last few weeks, the intensity has been unprecedented.
“Since January 1, the Trans-Forcado pipeline has not been up for two or three day at a row without being hit. We fix it, it goes out, we fix it, it goes out. We can only link that to outright criminality, we just know that pipeline vandalism in the last few weeks has been on the increase.”
Ige said the government is incapable of ensuring 24-hour patrol of the the pipelines due to the length and location of some of the pipelines.
“We have hundreds of kilometres which are located in swampy terrain which you cannot patrol 24 hours. With the extent of the pipelines, it require a whole combination of strategies, but no amount of strategy can mitigate a socially irresponsible behaviour.
“I think there should be a social re-engineering which gets complemented by security, but it is impossible to get total patrol of every kilometer of pipeline and what we find out is that when we put security forces there to check them, the vandals quickly go to the next kilometer and continue with their operations,” Ige also said.