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Nigeria's Qua Iboe crude oil output at risk due to blockade: ExxonMobil

Lagos — ExxonMobil's Nigerian oil producing unit says crude production and exports from its assets in southern Nigerian have come under threat following an over six-week blockade by former employees protesting their dismissal.

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"The continued blockade means a loss of access for employees [and contractors]. Continued denial of access to production facilities could impact the company's ability to safely continue production operations," ExxonMobil said in a statement Sunday.

ExxonMobil, which exports over 300,000 b/d of crude from the Qua Iboe terminal, said the aggrieved workers, who were ex-security personnel engaged by the US oil firm along with 508 workers were dismissed in July, had been blockading the company's offices and facilities since July 13.

A company spokesman told S&P Global Platts Monday that the protest had delayed plans by ExxonMobil to start refurbishing crude oil pipelines at the Qua Iboe terminal targeted at increasing production.

ExxonMobil said the aggrieved former employees had threatened workers with physical violence "and other actions that threaten production at one of Nigeria's key joint venture assets."

The protest has continued despite the Nigerian government's directive on August 28, 2018 through the Minister of Labor ordering them to desist, the company added.

The chairman of ExxonMobil branch of the senior oil workers' Pengassan union Rasak Obe had said in a statement in July that the workers had embarked on the action to protest against the mass, unfair dismissal of workers, mainly security personnel.

Obe said then the action would not be called off until the company re-instated the workers.

ExxonMobil said on Sunday that while the affected workers were third-party direct employees, it had offered significant severance packages to the affected workers as was negotiated and agreed by all parties.

Nigeria's flagship export grade is produced from fields 20-40 miles off the coast of southeast Nigeria, and is brought onshore at the Qua Iboe terminal via a seabed pipeline system.

It is a light sweet crude and when refined has a high yield of gasoline and middle distillates, making it a very popular crude with global refiners.

ExxonMobil holds a 40% interest in the field's production, with state-owned NNPC holding the remainder.

--Eklavya Gupte, eklavya.gupte@spglobal.com

--Staff Reports, newsdesk@spglobal.com

--Edited by Jonathan Dart, jonathan.dart@spglobal.com