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Niger’s maiden crude cargo set to load from Benin’s Seme

Niger’s maiden crude cargo is set to load at Benin’s Seme port, according to sources and shipping data, turning the landlocked African country into an oil exporter less than a year after a military coup.

Data from S&P Global Commodities at Sea showed the Front Cascade, a 1 million barrel capacity Suezmax, sitting just outside the Seme terminal in preparation to dock, as of 1330 GMT.

Its destination was listed as a single point mooring registered to the West African Oil Pipeline (Niger & Benin) Company (WAPCO), a subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corp, which constructed the Niger-Benin pipeline.

“Front Cascade tanker [is] now loading at Seme for the first cargo,” a source told S&P Global Commodity Insights on May 17.

The imminent loading marks the startup of the 110,000 b/d crude pipeline, which will pave the way for a massive increase in Niger’s oil production and make it a significant exporter.

Currently the arid, landlocked country produces just 20,000 b/d of crude from its Agadem Rift Basin, which is primarily used domestically due to the lack of an export route, but it is ready for an immediate ramp-up of output to fill the new pipeline.

The pipeline is expected to start up at 90,000 b/d before ramping up to full capacity, sources said.

“This is a major milestone in Niger’s economic history — akin to the development of uranium mining in the 1970s,” said Jim Burkhard, S&P Global’s vice president of oil markets, energy and mobility. “It is a notable oil market development as well — Niger is set to become the world’s newest oil exporter. And it is adding to world oil supply growth taking place outside of OPEC+.”

Sanctions risk
The project’s progress looked in doubt in 2023 after Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum was overthrown by his presidential guard, leading to punishing sanctions on the country by regional bloc ECOWAS. The measures effectively shut the Benin-Niger border, meaning a number of pumping stations were waiting for equipment stuck in Benin.

However, the relaxation of sanctions in March allowed CNPC to complete construction of the 2,000 km pipeline and begin to move crude through it to storage tanks at Seme, sources said at the time.

In recent days, the two governments have continued to quarrel publicly over the months-long border closure, but on May 16 Benin’s government granted provisional authorization for the first ship to load Nigerien oil at the Seme platform.

“They will agree on something,” a source familiar with the discussions said May 13. “They both need the money.” Oil is expected to become a major revenue source for Niger — which also boasts significant uranium deposits — while Benin will benefit from transit fees through the pipeline.
Source: Platts

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