Nigeria's Oil Thieves Drive Shell To Distraction As Company Plans Pipeline Sale

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Royal Dutch Shell is getting back on track with its oil projects in the Chukchi Sea, after years of complications.

Nigerian thieves drilled holes into a Royal Dutch Shell PLC (NYSE:RDS.A) pipeline in the African country this week, forcing the company to shut it down to stop the leaking, the company said Thursday. It was just the latest in a series of such thefts on this pipeline.

"We closed the Nembe Creek Trunkline on Sunday for the removal of crude theft points,” a spokesman of Shell Petroleum Development Co. of Nigeria, Precious Okolobo, told Dow Jones Newswires. “We plan to complete the exercise and reopen the line as soon as possible.”

The amount of crude lost is unknown.

Shell has long owned a stake in the pipeline, which transports 150,000 barrels of oil a day, and has had to close it many times due to theft since replacing it in December 2010 (for aging) for $1.1 billion.

Last year, Mutiu Sunmonu, head of Shell's Nigerian unit, said the attacks on the Nembe Creek pipeline have been “unprecedented… More than 60,000 barrels of oil are being stolen a day, resulting in frequent production shutdowns and massive oil spills blighting the ecosystem."

Shell announced intentions to sell the 97-kilometer pipeline in late 2013, due to persistent losses from theft and destruction.

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