Nigeria oil export terminal had theft line into sea for nine years

A gas flare burns at the Batan flow station operated by Chevron under a joint-venture arrangement with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for the onshore and offshore assets in the Niger Delta region on March 26, 2018. The Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), a militant group in Nigeria's Niger Delta, had in 2016 attacked the oil installations and other facilities that cut deeply into Nigerias oil exports, affecting the operations of oil companies in the Niger Delta. / AFP PHOTO / PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)

Officials in Nigeria discovered an illegal connection line from one of its major oil export terminals into the sea that had been operating undetected for nine years.

The four kilometer connection line from the Forcados export terminal, which typically exports around 250,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil into the sea, was found during a clamp-down on theft in the past six weeks, head of state oil company NNPC, Mele Kyari said.

“Oil theft in the country has been going on for 22 years but the dimension and rate it assumed in recent times is unprecedented,” Kyari said in an audio recording of the briefing reviewed by Reuters.

Thieves often tap land-based pipelines to siphon oil undetected while they continue to operate but an illegal line in the ocean is highly unusual and suggests a more sophisticated theft operation.

Forcados operator SPDC, a local subsidiary of Shell, did not immediately provide a comment.

Nigeria, typically Africa’s largest oil exporter, is losing potential revenue from some 600,000 bpd of oil, Kyari said, as some is stolen and as oil companies idle certain fields rather than feed pipelines tapped by thieves.

Crude oil exports fell below 1 million bpd in August for the first time since at least 1990 as a result, starving Nigeria of crucial cash.