oil problem in nigeria

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    US oil giant ChevronTexaco has shut down its main export terminal in Nigeria amid violent unrest in the Niger Delta, cutting production by 440,000 barrels per day, the firm said.

    "We do not consider it safe for our people to remain in the Western Niger Delta, given the current situation," Chevron Nigeria's managing director Jay Pryor said in a statement.

    ChevronTexaco's massive Escravos terminal in the western Delta, 320 kilometres south-east of Lagos, is at the heart of a web of oil wells in the coastal swamps and offshore in the Gulf of Guinea.

    For ten days it has also been at the centre of a bloody ethnic conflict between the rival Itsekiri and Ijaw ethnic groups.

    Armed Ijaw militants have also clashed with the Nigerian military and attacked oil facilities.

    Separately, the Anglo-Dutch firm Shell and France's TotalFinaElf have confirmed shutting down facilities producing 195,000 barrels per day, a figure that is widely expected to rise.

    Taken together, the confirmed production shortfall accounts for more than a quarter of the two million barrels of crude Africa's largest oil producer exports daily.

    The shutdown comes at a time when the war in Iraq already has world markets on edge.

    Analysts have warned that problems at a second major exporter could force prices skyward.

    ChevronTexaco also said that daily production of 285 million cubic feet of natural gas had also been suspended, and that workers from Escravos and the firm's offshore platforms would be relocated.

    All the oil multinationals working in the Delta have already evacuated their staff from wells and pumping stations in the swamplands south and west of the oil city of Warri.

    One ChevronTexaco employee has been killed by a stray bullet, and on Sat#rday the Nigerian army said that five people, including two soldiers, had been killed in an Ijaw attack on a TotalFinaElf oil storage farm.

    A Shell helicopter was hit and damaged by gunfire as it evacuated staff last week.

    Eight serving Nigerian military personnel have been killed since the start of the violence, and refugees fleeing the zone have accused both the army and armed Ijaw youths of gunning down scores of villagers.

    ABC Online.
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