Shell Delays Bonga Field Start Until 2005

Shell says there has been a further delay of the start-up of Bonga, Nigeria's biggest offshore oil project. with an estimated daily crude output of 225,000 barrels per day.

First production is now expected in 2005, not late 2004 as predicted in February. This is the second time this year Bonga has been delayed.

This could be a problem for Nigeria's efforts to win a bigger share of output from its partners in the OPEC because capacity tends to be a key determinant of OPEC quotas.

In February, Shell had pushed back the start date to late 2004 from mid 2004. On Friday, confirming reports published in analyst broker notes this week, a spokeswoman said: "As we indicated on February 5, we have some challenges to deal with on Bonga.

"We've had to absorb additional offshore workscope that has delayed the project. We are working to get it up and running as quickly as possible and we expect to be on stream next year."

Oil from the $2.7-billion Bonga development, when it begins to flow, will be a significant boost to total Nigerian output of more than 2.3 million bpd, as well as adding to Shell's already sizeable one million bpd in the country.

The field will be operated on behalf of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) under a production sharing contract giving Shell's Nigerian subsidiary a 55 percent stake, and sharing the remainder between subsidiaries of ExxonMobil with 20 percent, Eni with 12.5 percent and Total with 12.5 percent.