LONDON (Reuters) - ExxonMobil is working on a plan to export Qua Iboe crude oil via an alternate pipeline while it repairs damage to the main export line sustained in July, sources told Reuters.
The crude oil grade, Nigeria’s largest export stream, has been under force majeure since mid-July, when the company said it detected a “system anomaly” on the subsea pipeline.
Sources said the company later found substantial damage that would take at least one to two months to repair.
An Exxon spokesman declined to comment on the plan to use an alternative pipeline, saying: “We’re continuing to make progress, but we would not speculate on a timeline for repairs.”
Nigeria’s oil production has been hobbled by militant action since the beginning of the year, with state oil company NNPC saying pipeline attacks have taken out some 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) from production that is typically just above 2 million bpd.
In addition to Qua Iboe, crude oil streams Forcados and Brass River are also under force majeure, while Bonny Light and Escravos exports have been hampered by pipeline closures.
Exxon has said there was no militant involvement in the problem on the Qua Iboe line, though the Niger Delta Avengers claimed an attack on the 48” pipeline just days before the force majeure was announced.
Whatever the cause of the damage, port sources and oil traders said repairs would take months, spurring the decision to try to export via a second, smaller pipeline that also feeds the platform.
“Exxon is preparing the alternate export line,” one source said, adding that if it is successful, some exports could emerge within two weeks.
Two sources added that Exxon, and the Qua Iboe terminal itself, were not sharing details on the repair progress or export plans for fear of provoking militant attacks on oil infrastructure.
Reporting by Libby George and Julia Payne; editing by Jason Neely
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