The evacuation will delay repairs to the pipe which carries 106,000 barrels a day, around 10 per cent of Shell's oil output from Nigeria. The move has raised fears that international companies may permanently quit the turbulent delta area if the Government, a key Western oil ally, fails to rein in the militias.
A senior industry source told Reuters that the company was considering a wider pullout from all swamp locations in the western delta. However, in a statement made a few hours ago, Royal Dutch Shell insists that it has no current plans to pull out of Nigeria's delta.
Royal Dutch Shell has been in a long-standing dispute with impoverished locals who accuse the company of failing to invest in their region, where an estimated 20 million people live in poverty alongside the multi-billion-dollar oil industry. Heavily armed members of the Ijaw ethnic group killed at least one person and injured ten others on the Benisede flowstation in Bayelse State in an early-morning raid on a Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) platform yesterday, the fourth such attack in five days.
The attackers used speed boats and set fire to staff accommodation and destroyed part of the processing facility. In a communique, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta claimed is has 5,000 warriors ready to cripple Shells activities in the area. "Our aim is to totally destroy the capacity of the Nigerian government to export oil," said the group, who are also believed to responsible for last weeks kidnapping of four mercanies working for Shell.
Shell has increased pressure on president Olusegun Obasanjo's government to intensify the violent repression on the indigenous people who are demanding more control over the region's oil revenues. The Government has yet to launch a major military assault and will be aware the safety of the four hostages would be at risk in such an attack.
The events, along with Iran's pointing out that sanctions over its nuclear programme would result in a massive rise in global oil prices, has already had the effect of adding 93 cents to a barrel in this morning trading. The rising prices are set to continue as the world wide demand for oil will soon exceed the supply and conflict over remaining reserves is likely to increase.
A grassroots gathering to look at the issues relating to the peak in global oil production will take place in London next month. Organisers are encouraging activists from peace groups, environmental organisations, immigrant rights groups, anti-globalisation groups etc to attend the gathering and share their views on how the growing energy crisis will impact on these issues and more. If you are interested in attending or helping to organise the event, email rampart @ mutualaid.org