Canadian police probe sixth gas pipeline bombing
VANCOUVER, British Columbia, July 4 (Reuters) – An explosion damaged a natural gas pipeline in northeast British Columbia on Saturday, the sixth attack on an energy facility in that area of the Canadian province in recent months.
The explosion about 8 km south of the community of Dawson Creek, British Columbia, caused a leak but no injuries and was heard by crews repairing wellhead equipment damaged in a bombing on Wednesday, police said.
“The elements of this incident thus far, are consistent with the previous blast sites and the RCMP considers this latest bombing linked to the others,” the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement.
Pipeline owner EnCana Corp (ECA.TO) said 12-inch (30-cm) diameter line carried “sour” gas that contains hydrogen sulphide and can be deadly if breathed, but none had been detected by monitoring equipment and there was no threat to the public.
The incident caused pressure in the line to drop, which activated emergency valves that immediately shut down the pipeline and stopped the leak, the company said.
The bombings that began in early October have all targeted EnCana natural gas facilities near the communities of Dawson Creek and Tomslake, British Columbia. None of the attacks have caused injuries but have produced small gas leaks.
Investigators believe the saboteur is a resident of the area and that the incidents are linked to a letter sent to media before the first blast warning EnCana to stop drilling for natural gas in the area.
The letter also complained about the production of “crazy” gas, which officials have speculated may be a reference to sour gas production.
“This (latest explosion) does change the dynamics of the events in certain terms, the main being our heightened concern for public safety, given that this explosion went off in close proximity of working crews and within a couple of kilometers of a populated rural area,” the police statement said.
Unlike with the earlier explosions, police were alerted to this blast almost immediately after it happened and were able to reach the scene quickly, which investigators said may aid their search for clues.
Police had complained they believed some residents knew information about who might be responsible for the attacks but were unwilling to cooperate with investigators.
“We are greatly encouraged by the quick response from the public in this latest incident with the receipt of an unsolicited report,” police said EnCana said its crews were inspecting other facilities in the area but no damage has been discovered.
The company did not estimate when the latest damage would be repaired, and the company is still working to stop the small leak caused by Wednesday’s explosion.
Nigeria militants attack Shell, amnesty hopes fade
LAGOS, July 5 (Reuters) – Nigerian militants said on Sunday they had launched their third attack on Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) since President Umaru Yar’Adua made an amnesty offer, and threatened to intensify their campaign of sabotage.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said in an emailed statement it had attacked a Shell oil well head in the Cawthorne Channel at about 0200 GMT, again dashing hopes that the amnesty offer would buy a period of calm.
“The facility connects to the Bonny loading terminal in Rivers state,” it said, referring to a key oil export terminal in the eastern part of the Niger Delta.
Colonel Rabe Abubakar, spokesman for the military taskforce which patrols the Niger Delta, said “miscreants” had attacked and damaged a facility in the Cawthorne Channel, causing damage to the environment, but had no further details.
There was no immediate confirmation from Shell.
A private security contractor said a vessel carrying chemicals was thought to have been attacked 20 miles offshore further west and six crew members kidnapped at about the same time. Abubakar could not immediately confirm that report.
Shell said on Tuesday the latest raids — which had largely focused on the western Niger Delta — had slashed output from its onshore facilities to 140,000 barrels per day (bpd), around half its production level earlier this year.
The disruption to supplies last week helped push global oil prices to an eight-month high above $72 a barrel.
Yar’Adua said 10 days ago he would offer a 60-day amnesty to gunmen to try to end unrest which has prevented Nigeria from pumping much above two thirds of its installed capacity since early 2006, costing it billions of dollars in lost revenue.
Some militant leaders have indicated they would be willing to accept the offer, provided they can negotiate the terms, but MEND — a loose network of various armed factions — has doubted the government’s sincerity.
The group blew up a Shell well head in Delta state hours after the amnesty proposal, accusing the military of going on a “punitive mission” to hunt down suspected militants despite the offer, a charge the security forces denied.
Fighters from MEND also attacked two well clusters in Shell’s Estuary field on Monday, forcing the Anglo-Dutch giant to shut in some production as a precaution.
MEND first burst onto the scene at the end of 2005, knocking out more than a quarter of Nigeria’s oil output — then some 2.4 million barrels per day (bpd) — in a matter of weeks.
Oil production in the OPEC member country, the world’s eighth biggest crude oil exporter, has never fully recovered and the militants have continued to nibble at infrastructure, preventing international oil firms from carrying out repairs.
MEND’s latest campaign follows the military’s launch in May of its biggest offensive for at least a decade, using helicopter gunships and battalions of ground troops to hunt down suspected militants in the western Niger Delta.
One of the group’s key demands is that the amnesty offer be extended to its suspected leader Henry Okah, who is on trial for treason and gun-running and could face the death penalty. MEND says Okah needs urgent medical attention for a kidney ailment.
Yar’Adua has asked Interior Minister Godwin Abbe to extend the clemency offer to Okah, but he has so far failed publicly to do so and Okah’s trial continued last week.
“The government’s insincerity is the main cause (of the amnesty offer not working),” MEND said on Saturday in a statement which accused the security forces of attacking a community near oil facilities and burning it down after residents had fled.
“(This) will be revenged and it is the oil companies that will bear the brunt,” the group said.
Some security analysts expect the military to launch another major offensive against militants who do not accept the amnesty once the 60-day offer period ends in October.