An illegal oil bunkering facility linked to Oil Mining Licence 17 has been discovered, and individuals responsible for the oil theft are being probed. The probe was prompted when the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps discovered an illegal local refinery in Rivers State’s Etche Local Government Area on Thursday.
The illicit refinery takes crude from Heirs Holding Oil and Gas Limited’s OML17 fields. In 2021, Heirs Holdings purchased 45 percent of OML 17 from Shell Total and Eni in a $1.1 billion deal. At the time of purchase, the field in northern Port Harcourt produced just 27, 000 barrels per day. Yet, seven months after purchase, output increased to 40, 000 barrels per day.
After intelligence tips from local sources, the NSCDC was able to apprehend the oil bunkering group.
The culprits were reported to have gained access to Heirs Holding Oil and Gas complex via pipeline bulk delivery and stolen crude oil via expertly built pipes to their illicit local refinery.
Further findings revealed that some insider involvement connected to the bunkering had been uncovered, and the NSCDC is currently interrogating workers both inside and outside the facility with the full support of Elumelu himself.
The NSCDC Commandant in Rivers State, Michael Besong Ogar, confirmed the development.
He said it was the first time of witnessing a new strategy of operations by illegal oil thieves in the country. sponsors of the illegal refinery are currently being investigated and would be charged to court.
“I must confess that this is the first time of witnessing a well fabricated illegal refinery with such a wide range of pipes laid across the area, as you can see how big the land is, you can also imagine how unscrupulous people can be despite the continuous fight against illegal dealings in petroleum products.
“We have commenced intense investigation into the matter, and we will unravel the mystery behind this economic sabotage.
“The NSCDC has a clear statutory mandate to safeguard critical national assets and Infrastructures across the federation, we will not be deterred or distracted by the activities of oil thieves in the State. Without compromise we will go after them and ensure that the illegal dealings in petroleum products are reduced drastically in order to boost the nation’s economy again”, he said.
OML 17 contains fields such as Agbada, Obigbo, Obigbo North, as well as Otamini and Umuchem. It also hosts facilities that can output 150, 000 barrels per day. Gas production on the field is less than 50 million standard cubic feet per day, with estimated 2P reserves of 1.2 billion barrels of oil.