/ 8 November 2010

Five kidnapped in offshore oil-rig attack in Nigeria

Gunmen in speedboats kidnapped five workers and wounded two others in an attack on Monday at an oil rig operating off the coast of Nigeria’s troubled southern delta, officials said.

The attack on the newly installed rig operated by London-based Afren PLC and a nearby support ship happened as sporadic attacks continued in a region supposedly calmed by a government-sponsored amnesty programme.

In a statement, Afren said the attack occurred at a new rig operating at the Okoro oil field, which sits about 13km off the coast of Nigeria’s Akwa Ibom state. The company said the two workers suffered “wounds to the leg” in the attack and have been flown out by helicopter to receive medical attention.

“We are working with the relevant authorities and the vessel and rig are both under the control of the company,” Afren said. “Drilling operations on the rig are temporarily suspended. An update will be provided in due course.”

It is unknown if the employees were locals or foreigners working with Afren, which explores eight oil fields in Nigeria with local partner companies.

Nigerian navy vessels often offer security for such offshore rigs, though it was unclear whether they had vessels in the area. A naval spokesman said Monday that he had no information about the attack.

Afren shares drop after attack
Afren operates in the Okoro field with the private Nigerian firm Amni International. In financial reports, Afren has said the field produces about 18 800 barrels of oil a day, with an estimated reserve of 24,8-million barrels.

Shares in Afren had dropped by 3,66% in early trading on Monday on the London Stock Exchange.

Militants in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta began a campaign of kidnapping and pipeline bombings in 2006, upset over pollution and the region’s endemic poverty despite 50 years of oil production. Violence in the region dropped after a government-sponsored amnesty programme last year offered militants the promise of job training and cash payouts. However, some have become disillusioned and others remain armed in the delta’s winding creeks.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. The region’s main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, has said it would carry out new attacks in the region after claiming responsibility for an October 1 car bombing in the nation’s capital Abuja that killed at least 12 and injured dozens more.

On September 22, gunmen attacked an offshore rig operated by Addax Petroleum, a subsidiary of Chinese state-owned oil producer Sinopec Group. The assailants kidnapped three French contractors from an oil-rig support vessel that appeared on the scene, as well as a Thai expatriate during the attack. The four remain missing.

Oil price hits two-year high amid attack
Oil prices reached two-year high points on Monday before profit-taking pushed them down, while attention was on Nigeria after the oil rig was attacked.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in December, struck $87,49 a barrel — the highest point since late 2008.

It later pulled back to stand at $86,58, down 27 cents compared with Friday’s close.

In London, Brent North Sea crude for December fell 36 cents to $87,75 a barrel. Analysts said prices were still profiting from strong US employment figures.

“Better-than-expected US labour market data have created optimism among financial investors and this could revive the demand for oil in the US, the world’s largest oil consumer,” said Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch. — Sapa-AP