Workers: Force majeure at ExxonMobil Nigeria may last weeks

WARRI, Nigeria – The force majeure — or freedom from contractual obligations because of extraordinary circumstances — declared by ExxonMobil on Nigeria’s largest crude stream could last a month because of extensive damage to its 300,000 barrel-a-day Qua Iboe export terminal, workers of the U.S.-based oil giant told The Associated Press on Friday.

ExxonMobil has denied that militants bombed the facility July 11 and cited a “system anomaly.” Spokesman Todd Spitler said Qua Iboe was “operating and production activities continue.” But a company security official said the damage is too great to be a system failure. He and two other workers said the force majeure could last weeks. All spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of losing their jobs.

Futures sales of Nigerian oil have been affected by frequent declarations of force majeure since attacks by oil militants resurged this year. Qua Iboe terminal had just restarted production after a month-long force majeure in June following an attack claimed by the Niger Delta Avengers.

President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday said his government has initiated indirect talks with the militants but the Avengers denied that Friday through social media.

The 400,000 barrel-a-day Forcados terminal of British-Dutch Shell has not resumed exports since the Avengers in February blew up a subsea pipeline.

Shell also shut its 180,000 barrel-a-day Trans-Niger Pipeline after it was dynamited earlier this month.

The Avengers have hit facilities of U.S.-based Chevron and Italian Agip as well as state-owned pipelines. The attacks have stopped production at two of Nigeria’s five oil refineries and slashed supplies of gas used to fuel electricity generators.

Hundreds of foreign and local oil workers have been evacuated because of death threats.

The Avengers want to stop all exports of oil that produce 70 per cent of government revenue, charging oil pollution has brought nothing but misery to residents of the southern oil-rich region.