Nigeria Oil Output on the Rebound Despite Rebel Attacks

ABUJA, Nigeria (Dow Jones)

Crude oil output through Eni SpA's (E) Tebidaba on-shore gathering center in Nigeria started to ramp higher Wednesday toward its estimated 50,000 barrels a day capacity, a company official confirmed, the latest step in the recovery of the country's sputtering oil production.

A force majeure declared on the output was lifted at the weekend. Operations at Tebidaba stopped last month after an attack by militants, who held more than 20 workers hostage at the center for several days.

The official familiar with operations said output from the offshore Okono/Okpoho oilfields, where Agip Energy, Eni's deep offshore subsidiary, is the contractor to state-run Nigerian Petroleum Development Co., has also fully recovered to 60,000 barrels a day after suffering a two-week shutdown following attacks by ethnic militants who kidnapped seven hostages.

Aminu Baba-Kusa, general manager of the marketing arm of NNPC, said the country's oil output is rebounding and is at 2.18 million barrels a day: "We're moving back up" on a return of Agip's output, he said.

The amount of crude capacity lost to ethnic unrest, vandalism, sabotage and kidnappings in the oil-rich coastal Delta region of Nigeria has been as high as 800,000 barrels a day in the summer, or almost a third of the country's capacity.

That has shrunk in recent weeks to around a fifth being out of action, though attacks by rebels have the potential to quickly drive it higher again.

Copyright (c) 2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.