YENAGOA, Nigeria: A blast has hit an oil pipeline run by Italian producer Eni in southern Nigeria, cutting some exports and causing a crude spill, its local operating company said yesterday. Eni, the parent of Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC), said the explosion hit its facility in Nembe in Bayelsa State and cut exports from its Brass terminal by 25,000 barrels per day (bpd).

Eni did not give more details on the blast, but vandalism, sabotage and theft from Nigeria's southern oilfields and pipelines are very common. The oil company said it was the second in a few days after an earlier incident on February 28 at its Obama flow station led to a production shortfall of 5,000 bpd. NAOC declared force majeure on expected oil output at the terminal, gas feeds to Bonny NLNG plant and Okpai Power Plant. "An incident occurred on the Ogoda/Brass 24" oil line, at Okparatubo in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.

"The event was caused by a blast, consequently causing a spill." It said wells connected to the pipeline were immediately shut-in whilst river booms and containment barges were mobilized to reduce the impact of the spill. National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) confirmed inspections of the two incidents, but said details were still not available.

NOSDRA director Idris Musa said the two incidents were traced to vandalism, with 20 barrels leaked in the Feb 28 incident while nearly 1,250 barrels-the equivalent of 166 tonnes-were discharged in the second incident. Residents at fishing settlements who operate in the creeks and near the Atlantic shoreline at Nembe and Brass in Bayelsa criticized the impact of frequent spills in the area.

Noel Ikonikumo, Chairman of the local United Fishing Union listed several recent oil spills that have polluted waters, including the November 5 well blowout in Nembe, and a gas leakage at Sangana in Brass area. "Whenever there is a spill, our nets and other fishing gears get soaked in crude and get condemned because you can no longer use them as the smell of crude scares fish away," he said. "We have written to the companies concerned to see reason with us and assist us but have not got any response." -AFP