Oct. 22, 2013
By Samuel Oyadongha, Yenagoa
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) Tuesday claimed responsibility for the explosion that rocked the Warri Refinery and Petrochemical Company, WRPC, in Delta State.
MEND in a statement signed by its Spokesman Jomo Gbomo, said the attack on the oil facility is an indication that ‘Hurricane Exodus’ is on course.
The statement reads, “the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) takes responsibility for the sabotage this morning, Tuesday 22 October, 2013, inside the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Refinery in Warri, Delta State of Nigeria. ‘Hurricane Exodus’ was intended to burn down the entire refining facility.
“As long as President Goodluck Jonathan continues to rely on an unsustainable and fraudulent Niger Delta Amnesty programme, peace and security will continue to elude his government in the region.
‘Hurricane Exodus’ is on course!”.
The explosion at the Warri Refinery and Petrochemical Company, WRPC, Warri, Delta State, which forced the 35-year-old company, operating mostly with outmoded equipment to shut down production, Tuesday.
Vanguard learnt that the fire started at about 11.00 am in the refining section of the company, a subsidiary of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, with an installed capacity of 125,000 bpd, while crude oil refining process was on.
Our source said, “It is the 10-H-02 equipment in area 2 that exploded, and the fire lasted for few minutes, before it was put off by firefighters and safety officials of the company.”
He asserted, “The exact cause of the explosion, which sent huge balls of fire skyward has not been ascertained and I can tell you that investigation is on, I cannot say the actual cause of the explosion.”
It was feared that some workers might have sustained injuries in the morning blast, as but our reporter, who visited WRPC counted more than three siren-baring ambulances, zooming in and out of the Refinery at high-speed.
The incident might likely affect petroleum products supply in parts of the country. The design capacity of the refinery was initially 100,000 bpd, but the Federal Government de-bottlenecked Warri and Kaduna Refineries to a new capacity of 125,000 bpd in 1985.
Due to the old nature of most of its equipment, WRPC, commissioned in 1978 had stopped producing at installed capacity for some time. Our source disclosed, “Most of the machineries are old and need replacement, the Refinery is also long overdue for a Turn –Around- Maintenance, TAM.”
He said, “I hope that government would provide required funds for TA, very quickly. The management has tried a lot, they have within the limits of available resources managed to keep the old equipment working, it has been stretched to its maximum, what is required now is TAM.”
“Before now, WRPC was no longer producing at full capacity because of the problems, Nigerian engineers have done everything to keep the place going, it is in the process of crude oil refining that the explosion occurred,” he added.
The explosion caused apprehension among workers but the situation was effectively managed by officials of the company.
It was gathered that the directives and prompt intervention of the Managing Director, Engr. Paul Obelley helped to avert the situation from worsening, but the frightened workers fled outside the company, thinking that the entire complex would be consumed.
One of the anxious workers told this reporter, “I was initially frightened by the explosion which was like a natural disaster, but the prompt intervention of the Managing Director actually saved the situation, In fact, the incident was effectively managed by the management of the company”
Another worker said, “Immediately the explosion occurred, all the workers were evacuated to safety points, while fire fighters were mobilized to put off the fire.”
Journalists were, however, unkindly refused entry into the company to examine the damage by WRPC security officials, who claimed to be acting on the orders of the management. One of the security men told our reporter, “Go, it is people like you that they told us not to allow inside to see what is happening. Come back tomorrow (today), they will tell you what happened.”
However, a senior official, who the reporter complained to apologized, but explained that under the circumstance, it was decided that nobody should be allowed entry, except workers, security agents and fire fighters.
Two hours after the explosion, it was obvious that the fire had been extinguished as a sign of normalcy was clearly returning to the company.
In fact, some of the workers, who fled the premises while the conflagration was on, were seen returning back after they saw that it had been extinguished.
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