Eni's Brass River Crude Exports Halted after Pipeline Explosions

LONDON/YENAGOA, Nigeria (Reuters) Eni declared force majeure (FM) on exports of Nigerian Brass River crude oil following pipeline explosions in Bayelsa state, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said.

The source added that the FM letter was dated Nov. 22. Eni did not immediately comment.

An explosion hit pipelines at Shell and Eni oilfields in Nigeria's Niger Delta, resulting in a leak, a community leader said on Tuesday.

Separately, a Nigerian court sentenced six foreigners and one Nigerian to seven years in prison for oil theft, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said on Tuesday, three years after the navy arrested 10 suspects with a vessel carrying crude oil off the Niger Delta.

The suspects - a Nigerian, two Pakistanis, three Ghanaians, one Indonesian, one Beninois and two Ukrainians - had siphoned about two thousand metric tonnes of crude oil from a loading facility belonging to Shell Petroleum, the navy said in 2017.

EFCC spokesman Wilson Uwujaren said the suspects were convicted on four counts of conspiracy, dealing in petroleum products without a licence and tampering with oil pipelines alongside Asztral Shipping Corporation SA, and a vessel MT. TECNE (a.k.a MT STAR).

Nigeria is the world's eighth biggest exporter of crude oil, but a sizeable proportion of its output is stolen by thieves who either drill into pipelines or hijack barges loaded with oil, theft that is known locally as "bunkering".

Oil and gas operations in Nigeria have been hampered for years by bunkering and militant attacks on pipelines, although crude oil production largely recovered after a cessation of hostilities in 2017 by Niger Delta militants, but pipelines and other facilities have still been the target of sporadic attacks and illegal taps.

In 2016, ExxonMobil declared force majeure after militants bombed the 300,000-bpd Qua Iboe export terminal, and Shell had to shut its 180,000-bpd Trans-Niger Pipeline and 400,000-bpd Forcados terminal after separate pipeline attacks.  Hundreds of foreign and local oil workers were evacuated that year because of death threats by a group calling itself the Niger Delta Avengers, which sought to stop all oil exports.

Eni has had a presence in Nigeria since 1962, when the Nigerian Agip Oil Co. Ltd (NAOC) was founded.

P&GJ staff contributed to this report

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