January 3, 2018 / 3:11 PM / 6 months ago

Nigerian power grid shut-down goes unnoticed in parts of country

ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria’s electricity grid has been shut down by a fire on a gas pipeline, the ministry of power said on Wednesday, as the country’s power infrastructure continues to struggle.

Gas supply to several power stations was cut off because of the fire on the Escravos Lagos Pipeline System near Okada in the southern state of Edo, the ministry said.

“The sudden loss of generation due to interruption in gas supply from these stations caused the national transmission grid to trip off around 20:20 on 2nd January,” it said.

The outage went unnoticed in parts of Nigeria, where blackouts are common and many businesses and households are forced to rely on their own power generators or, for the less wealthy, not have any electricity.

The country’s dilapidated power grid is often blamed for hobbling growth in Africa’s largest economy.

Nigeria’s state oil firm, which owns and operates the gas pipelines, said it was working to restore gas supply on the affected pipelines, which feed power plants in the country’s southwest.

Putting out the fire “might lead to a complete shutdown of the pipeline segment” and hit gas supply to customers in the three southwestern states of Lagos, Ondo and Ogun, the company said.

That will shut down power plants generating 1,143 megawatts of electricity, it added. Nigeria’s total power generation capacity is about 7,000 megawatts.

Most of Nigeria’s power generation is from thermal power stations that use gas, according to the power ministry.

“Once the national grid is restored, output from the hydroelectric power stations and all other unaffected gas-fired thermal power stations will be increased to the extent possible to minimize the impact of loss of generation from the affected power stations,” it said.

Some businesses were not affected by the blackout, while for others the outage went unheeded.

Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas - a joint venture between the state oil firm, Shell, Total and Eni - was unaffected, a spokesman said.

In the city of Bauchi in northeast Nigeria, the grid outage went unnoticed because people have already had weeks of power cuts.

Balarabe Musa, a metalworker in Bauchi, complained that hours-long blackouts were eating into his wages. “I can’t use a generator to do my job, I need a constant power supply for welding metals,” he said.

Government offices in Bauchi rely on generators, but high fuel costs mean they are too expensive as an alternative for some people.

Hairdresser Mama Ngozi said: “I can’t continue running the salon if the power failures continue like this.”

Reporting by Tife Owolabi; Additional reporting by Ardo Hazzad in Bauchi and Alexis Akwagyiram in London; Writing by Paul Carsten; Editing by Adrian Croft and Jane Merriman

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