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Shell Confirms Source of Nigerian Oil Leak as Cleanup Continues

Dec. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Europe’s largest oil company, confirmed the source of what could be Nigeria’s worst offshore spill in more than a decade to a leak in a flexible export line to a tanker.

Cleanup operations continued to the leak in the line between the tanker and production facility, The Hague-based Shell said in an update on its website. The company shut its 200,000 barrel-a-day Bonga offshore field after it leaked less than 40,000 barrels earlier this week.

“The sheen has thinned considerably due to a combination of natural factors and dispersant application, and in places is breaking up, all of which should aid further dissipation,” Mutiu Sunmonu, Shell’s chairman for Nigeria, said in the statement late yesterday.

The Anglo-Dutch company deployed five ships to spray dispersants and brought experts in to fight the spill. Bonga, Nigeria’s first deepwater discovery, produces almost 10 percent of the country’s crude, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) off the coast.

The leak could be the country’s worst since a January 1998 Exxon Mobil Corp. spill dumped an estimated 40,000 barrels into the sea from the Idoho platform on the southeastern coast, with slicks reported as far west as Lagos.

Shell had planned to export five cargoes of 1 million barrels each of Bonga crude a month from December to February, loading programs obtained by Bloomberg News show.

The damaged export line was isolated three days ago and the facility remains closed.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eduard Gismatullin in London at egismatullin@bloomberg.net

To contact the reporters on this story: Elisha Bala-Gbogbo in Abuja at ebalagbogbo@bloomberg.net

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