May 6, 2012 / 4:56 PM / 6 years ago

Total bores relief wells to tackle Nigeria gas leak

LAGOS/YENAGOA, Nigeria, May 6 (Reuters) - French oil company Total has begun drilling two relief wells at a gas plant in Nigeria that was shut down last month because of a leak caused by a technical incident, it said on Sunday.

The leak occurred on a block that also contains crude oil in Rivers state, one of the three states that make up the Niger Delta, a vast oil-rich wetlands region in the southeast.

“Total E&P Nigeria Limited’s (TEPNG) teams continue to actively focus on the well control operations of the IBW 16 on the Ibewa gas field in Rivers State ... which was affected during the incident of March 20,” a statement from the oil major said.

“Simultaneously, as a precautionary measure, relief wells are proceeding on two selected locations,” it added.

Block OML 58 also produced around 76,000 barrels per day of oil a day in 2004 and this increased in 2008, the company says on its website.

Total Nigeria spokesman Fred Ohwahwa told Reuters by phone that oil production at the site had not been affected by the leak, only associated gas.

“No crude oil is leaking, only gas, mixed with water, which has a muddy consistency,” he said.

He added that it was too early to say when Total might be able to get the gas plant up and running again.

Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer and holds the world’s seventh-largest gas reserves. Its light oil is popular with U.S. and Asian buyers, but it remains a small player in the gas business.

Total said it was “pumping heavy fluid into the well to stop the flow of reservoir fluids.” (Reporting by Tim Cocks and Tife Owolabi; Editing by Anthony Barker)

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