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Several oil and gas-related fights and clashes broke out across the African continent in 2016. North Africa saw a significant portion of conflicts, with Libya and Algeria in particular experiencing a number of attacks.
At the start of the year, Islamic State militants clashed with a force guarding Libya’s Es Sider oil port, with fighting taking place near the major export terminal, according to witnesses and troops. The attacks continued the next day, resulting in several deaths and fires among a number of oil storage tanks. The country’s Ras Lanuf terminal was also caught up in the carnage at the time, suffering from its own blazes and fatal fights.
IS is also suspected to have staged an attack on a water plant near the Sarir oil field in eastern Libya in March. An attempted assault on Apr. 2 on an oil field in the country led to the death of two guards and it was later revealed that staff from three oilfields in eastern Libya had been evacuated because of fears of further attacks.
Militant clashes like these helped stem the production of oil in the country to well below pre-2011 levels. Libya’s oil output has fallen as much as 80 percent since 2011, according to Ruth Lux, a senior consultant within JLT’s credit, political & security risk division consulting team.
Shedding some light on IS’ tactics and its assault on Libyan oil and gas facilities, Lux claims that these attacks were designed to ensure that the country remains a failed state and consequently vulnerable to further exploitation. This goes against the group’s approach in Syria and Iraq, according to Lux, which revolved more around isolating and controlling energy facilities in order to generate revenue.
Tensions in the Libyan oil and gas industry were still high towards the back end of the year, with Western countries, including the United States, France and Britain, outlining in a joint statement that they were concerned by rising friction around the Zueitina oil terminal. Libya’s state oil company called on rival armed factions to avoid damaging the terminal in Zueitina, following reports of possible clashes at the eastern port.
Further straining the Libyan oil and gas industry, forces loyal to east Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar seized at least two key oil ports Sept. 11 from a rival force loyal to the U.N.-backed government, risking a new conflict over the OPEC nation’s resources.
Meanwhile in Algeria, Al Qaeda’s North Africa branch attacked the In Salah gas plant, operated by Statoil ASA and BP plc, with rocket-propelled grenades in March. The attack was said to have caused no casualties or damage, although the European oil and gas firms withdrew staff from the area as a precaution.
Following the assaults, Statoil and BP told Rigzone that they remained committed to Algeria despite the ongoing threats to their facilities. The attack on In Salah followed a terrorist attack on the country’s In Amenas gas plant back in January 2013, which was unprecedented in the industry in terms of force and scale. Forty workers died during the crisis, which included a hostage situation after Islamist militants attempted to take over the facility.
Attacks in West Africa
West Africa was another area on the continent which saw more than its fair share of attacks during 2016.
In February, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) blew up a Royal Dutch Shell plc underwater pipeline, which forced the company to shut down its 250,000 barrel per day Forcados export terminal for weeks. At the end of May, the NDA attacked the Escravos terminal in Nigeria, using explosives to damage the asset’s tank farm main electricity feed pipeline, which resulted in Chevron’s onshore activities in the Niger Delta being shut down. A few days later the Avengers blew up Chevron’s RMP 23 and RMP 24 wells.
These attacks were part of a series of assaults on oil and gas companies operating in the Niger Delta, which included the following incidents:
- An attack on Chevron’s Okan Valve platform offshore facility in the Western Niger Delta.
- An explosion at a Chevron oil well at the Marakaba pipeline in Warri.
- An explosion at a gas pipeline in Ogbembiri, Bayelsa state, belonging to Italy’s Eni. The attack impacted approximately 1,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, according to an Eni spokesperson.
- A crude oil pipeline in Bayelsa, operated by Eni subsidiary Nigerian Agip Oil Company, being damaged with dynamite.
Assaults like this are still occurring in the region, with the latest comprising an attack on the Nembe Creek Trunk Line pipeline carried out Nov. 15.
The attacks on Nigeria’s energy infrastructure are sending shockwaves throughout the area as the disruption in supply poses a significant threat to the economy. During 2016, Nigeria’s oil production fell by almost 40 percent to 1.4 million barrels per day as a result of assaults on oil and gas installations in the Niger Delta, the country’s oil minister said.
These assaults were also having an effect on power supply in Benin, Togo and Ghana, which rely on Nigerian gas supplied through the West African Gas Pipeline, Verisk Maplecroft Senior Africa Analyst Malte Liewerscheidt told Rigzone.
Moving south-west to Angola, separatist rebels said Sept. 7 that they killed 12 soldiers in the country, as part of a flare-up of violence in a region that produces half the state’s oil.(source: Rigzone; Written by Andreas Exarheas, a graduate in journalism from Cardiff University, Andreas has eight years of experience as a business journalist. Email Andreas at firstname.lastname@example.org)