Oil groups to restart work in Nigeria
By Michael Peel in Lagos
Published: April 5 2003 5:00 | Last Updated: April 5 2003 5:00
ChevronTexaco and Royal Dutch/Shell, the oil companies, plan to restart work in Nigeria's troubled western Niger Delta after social unrest triggered an oil industry shutdown in the region and cut the country's daily crude output by 40 per cent.
Chevron, the worst affected of the oil multinationals operating in the western Delta, said it planned to end its 12-day shutdown and increase production in the area to 310,000 barrels a day, about 70 per cent of capacity.
The latest troubles in Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer and one of the world's top 10 exporters of crude, have caused concern on world oil markets and highlighted the depth of the social problems of the impoverished Delta region.
Jay Pryor, managing director of Chevron's Nigeria operation, said the company had been encouraged by the "recent calm" in the Delta after an uprising by members of the Ijaw ethnic group led to fighting with the country's armed forces.
Shell said that on Thursday it had restored 18,000 barrels of its 320,000 barrels per day of lost production and would reopen other facilities in the next few days. Chevron, TotalFinaElf and Royal Dutch/Shell all shut down facilities in the western Delta, leading the government to estimate that the country was losing about 800,000 barrels of its 2m barrel a day production.
The Delta unrest, which came ahead of national elections starting next week, reflects long-held feelings of resentment at the economic underdevelopment of the region despite decades of massive oil extraction.
Oil companies face many security problems, including theft of oil from wellheads, pipeline sabotage and the occupation of production facilities by local people.
The Nigerian navy this week received the first two of a batch of seven patrol ships donated by the US government. US officials, however, said they expected the vessels to be used to help stop oil theft rather than to quell social unrest.