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Exxon Says It Isn't Responsible for Second Spill in Niger Delta

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LAGOS - Exxon Mobil Corp.'s Nigeria unit said a spill from one of its pipelines is mixing with a second spill for which the oil giant wasn't responsible.

On November 9, a pipeline in Nigeria's Akwa Ibom state began leaking 200 barrels of oil into the fragile environment, by Exxon's early estimation. On Monday, though, spokesman Nigel Cookey-Gam said in a brief phone interview that the company's oil may have mixed with an oil spill from a separate, as of yet unknown source.

"We're getting indications of a spill in the area that is not ours," Mr. Cookey-Gam said. He added he didn't yet know the source, size, or cause of the second spill.

Nigeria's wetlands produce almost all of the country's oil, and spills there are frequent. Environmentalists blame lax enforcement of safety regulations, as well as criminal gangs that steal more than 150,000 barrels worth of oil a day from the nation's pipelines.

The latest spill in Africa's top crude producer has pushed up Qua Iboe, the country's benchmark oil grade, to around dated Brent plus $2.20 a barrel, as the spill caused some export delays, a London-based West African crude trader said. That is up from $2 a barrel last week, the trader said.

At least three cargoes of Qua Iboe were deferred on average by about 9 days. Exxon Mobil's production of Qua Iboe crude usually averages 400,000 barrels a day, according to Exxon's website. The company holds a 40% interest in Qua Iboe field production and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. holds the remaining 60%.

The trader said he expects Qua Iboe differentials to hold between $2 and $2.20 above dated Brent. Partially, that is because U.S. markets appear to retain ample supply of Nigerian crude, amid a surge in unconventional U.S. energy production. Imports of Nigeria's light, sweet crude into the U.S. have fallen. In July, just 361,000 barrels a day of Nigerian crude made it across the Atlantic the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in September. A year earlier, the US. brought in 810,000 barrels a day, the administration said.

On Friday, Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said India is now the lead purchaser of Nigerian oil.

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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