With four refineries, 5,000 kilo metres of pipeline networks and 21 petroleum products storage depots, Nigeria has the largest petroleum infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa. These infrastructure, if operating perfectly, the country will not only feed itself with petroleum products but cater for the needs of some neighbouring countries. Unfortunately, this ambition is not possible due to serious damage of these infrastructure by vandals, sabotage and mismanagement.
It is worthy to observe that while the 21 Petroleum and Products Marketing Company's (PPMC) in-land depots across the country have remained largely under- utilized due to their near epileptic state, the operations of the company has been seriously encumbered by the activities of pipeline marauders- thus making the task of conveying petroleum products across the over 5,000km of vast network of pipelines- a living nightmare.
The damage done to these pipelines infrastructure at a time nearly grounded activities in the country. Besides, the shortage of products in some part of the country, billions of naira are being spent to move products from the coastal areas to the hinter land. At an average vehicle turnaround of about 8-10 days from the South to the North and return, a minimum of 10,000 trucks are required to ply the roads daily.
The converse of using trucking as alternative means of moving products comes with a massive cost which makes the undertaking not only expensive but far less effective with the attendant operational hazards. Records indicate that with the incessant attacks on the nation's vast artery of pipelines, about 70 percent products distribution is through trucking or what is known in the industry parlance as bridging into the hinterland. This requires massive fleets of petroleum product trucks of up to 1,212 trucks load out from the depots every day to meet the daily estimated national consumption.
On the area of pipeline vandalism, billion of Dollar waste was recorded annually. From these activities. The Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Engineer Andrew Yakubu said recently that if left unchecked, the nefarious activities of pipeline marauders could cripple the smooth operation of the downstream sector of the industry.
"We had over 774 break points since August 2012 from Atlas Cove to Ilorin depot. Between Atlas Cove and Mosimi depot, we recorded 181 break points, from Mosimi to Ibadan, we had 421 raptured points and from Mosimi to Ore, we recorded 50 vandalized points. Also between Ibadan and Ilorin we had a total of 122 break points," Engr. Yakubu said while declaring open the 3rd Triennial Delegates Conference of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association, PENGASSAN, in Abuja.
These among other notorious activities of the vandals prompted the GMD, NNPC to recently face this ugly scenario, with seriousness and adoption of new technologies in preventing, discouraging and stopping the pipeline vandals and oil theft.
The NNPC in collaboration with the ministry recently engaged in facilities rehabilitation program through revamping of the hitherto comatose PPMC Benin Depot with the rehabilitation of the 89.9km Warri-Benin pipeline. Aba Depot has also been re-commissioned with the recovery of the Port Harcourt - Aba pipeline to restore product supply to the depot. Also, the Okrika PPMC Jetty has also been rehabilitated and re-commissioned while rehabilitation and expansion of the Atlas Cove Jetty is also ongoing.
Declaring the depot open for operation, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke noted that the revamping of the Benin depot is a single item in a long list of practical measures designed by the Jonathan administration to sanitize the downstream sector of the oil and gas industry.
On his part, the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Engr. Andrew Yakubu said in the months ahead, the drive to revitalize the nation's petroleum products depot will be sustained with the re-opening of the Gombe and Jos depots.
"We have re-commissioned Mosimi, Aba and now Benin. But the good news is that we are not going to stop here, very soon we shall be in Gombe, Jos and other depots. In fact, we are not going to stop until the 21 depots become fully operational," he said
One of the recent interventions made by the Yakubu administration is the effort to stop vandals from doing their dirty job at the notorious jobs on the system 2B pipeline.
The line in recent time witness, several attacks which led to waste of products, lives and thrown many part of the country into serious product scarcity.
Engr. Yakubu, at a visit to Arepo in January, on an on-the-spot assessment few days after an attack on the line by vandals, assured Nigerians that the incident (the third in a series of attacks on the System 2B Pipeline that supplies products to Mosimi, Ore, Ibadan and Ilorin Depots) will be addressed.
The NNPC boss unfolded short and long term measures to redeem Arepo from the hands of oil thieves and pipeline vandals. Some of which include: immediate mobilization of engineers to site to clamp and fix the ruptured points to restore pumping of petroleum products in keeping with his promise that no part of the country would suffer fuel scarcity on account of the incident, clearing of the Pipeline Right of Way to make the area accessible and difficult for oil thieves and vandals to carry out their nefarious activities in hiding, provision of platforms for security men to effectively monitor movements in and around the area and deployment of a technology to make the pipeline inaccessible to oil thieves and vandals.
Few days after the Yakubu's NNPC contracted the clearance of the system 2B right of way to engineers of the Nigerian Army Engineering Corps. Also, order was given on the Horizontal Direct Drilling System, HDD, designed to re-direct the pipelines and prevent vandals and hackers to gain easy access to the pipelines by burying them deeper into the ground.
The engagement of this technology has at least brought succor to the industry and hopefully will prevent the activities of the vandals in the axis. It is also hoped that Yakubu's management will look at other technologies to protect the 5,000 km pipeline network in order to make our refineries work actively, thereby reducing the massive importation of fuel and reduce the subsidy cost.