Nigeria considers importing crude oil from Niger due to militant attacks

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By Alexis Akwagyiram and Felix Onuah

LAGOS (Reuters) – Nigeria, typically Africa’s biggest crude oil producer, is considering importing crude from neighbouring Niger due to militant attacks on pipelines in the Niger Delta that feed its refineries, a state oil company spokesman said on Friday.

Nigeria’s crude production, which was 2.1 million barrels per day (bpd) at the start of 2016, fell by around a third in the summer following a series of attacks since January by Delta militants who want a greater share of the country’s energy wealth to go to the impoverished southern oil-producing region.

The attacks prompted the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to halt crude flows to its refineries – in Kaduna, Port Harcourt and Warri – after key pipelines feeding the plants were attacked. Crude flows later restarted.

NNPC spokesman Ndu Ughamadu said President Muhammadu Buhari had instructed the state oil company’s group managing director to look into the feasibility of importing crude oil from Niger.

“It is a proposal for crude oil to be supplied from Niger to the Kaduna refinery because of these incessant cases of vandalism,” said Ughamadu.

The other refineries — in what was Africa’s biggest crude oil producer until the attacks began, pushing it behind Angola — are located in the southern Delta region, whereas Kaduna is in northern Nigeria. Niger is located to the north of Nigeria.

Ughamadu did not have details of when the NNPC head would report back on the feasibility of the proposal or the quantities of crude oil that would be imported if the plan goes ahead.

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An employee of the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), which operates a joint venture with Niger’s government, said talks were under way on providing crude oil to Nigeria’s Kaduna refinery.

“Negotiations were opened and currently a delegation from CNPC Niger is in China to finalise the project,” said the CNPC employee and union delegate familiar with the talks, who asked not to be named.

Earlier in November, Nigeria’s minister of state for oil said crude production had returned to 2.1 million bpd following a ceasefire observed by many groups in the Delta region over the last few months.

Despite typically being Africa’s largest crude exporter, the OPEC member imports almost all of its gasoline due to its ageing refineries which have been poorly maintained for decades.

(Additional reporting by Boureima Balima, in Niamey; Editing by Adrian Croft)


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