Shell Probes Smoke Report Near Gbaran Oil Facility in Nigeria

(Reuters) — Oil major Shell is investigating reports of smoke early Tuesday near its Gbaran Ubie oil and gas facility in Nigeria's coastal Bayelsa state, a spokesperson said, after residents reported hearing explosions and seeing smoke near the area.

The incident would not immediately lead to an operational shut-in, the Shell spokesperson said.

A fire was reported around 0600 GMT by residents in the nearby community, who said blasts were heard where pipeline repair works had been ongoing.

The Gbaran facility, which began operations in 2010, is by far the most important Nigeria LNG gas feedstock project, processing almost 2 billion standard cubic feet of gas per day.

"We are actively monitoring reports of smoke detected near our Gbaran Central Processing Facility in Bayelsa State. While the source appears to be external to our facility, we are in close communication with regulatory authorities to look into the incident and ensure the safety of the surrounding communities," a Shell spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Shell did not immediately respond to the accounts of residents in the area.

Resident Ovie Ogbuku told Reuters: "At about 7 a.m. I heard the sound so deafeningly and it shook the foundation of the earth and we ran for our dear lives. The result is the thick smoke you are seeing now."

Another resident Uche Ede said; "We have no idea of the cause of the explosion but we are grateful no life was lost because it was far away from homes."

Land operations in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta are prone to sabotage, theft, and pipeline vandalism, forcing oil majors to exit such fields to focus on deepwater drilling.

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