Benin's 1,200-Mile Niger Pipeline Project Unaffected by Sanctions Over Coup

(Reuters) — Benin said on Thursday that work on a major oil pipeline linking it with neighboring Niger has not been impacted by sanctions imposed on Niamey by leaders of West Africa's regional bloc over last week's military coup, although it could mean a delay.

Heads of state of the 15-member Economic Community of West African States imposed severe sanctions on Niger, including border closures and suspension of all financial and commercial ties with the country.

The PetroChina-backed export pipeline project is expected to link Niger's Agadem oilfield to the Benin port of Cotonou. Total investment in the nearly 2,000 km (1,243-mile) pipeline, including a second phase development of the Adadem field, is expected to reach $4 billion.

Niger, which currently produces around 20,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd), hopes to boost its output to around 110,000 bpd, of which about 90,000 bpd will be exported through the pipeline.

"The current political situation has nothing to do with the execution of the project," Alassane Kora, deputy chief of staff of Benin's minister of mines and energy told Reuters.

"This means that at the moment, the work is progressing in Niger and Benin. There may be just a delay in the schedule. Otherwise, under normal circumstances, by October or early November, the first drops, the initial tests, should have been done," Kora said.

Separately, Benin government spokesperson Wilfried Leandre Houngbedji said in response to a Reuters query that border closures imposed by the West African bloc will not impact construction work on the pipeline.

However, in Benin's northern border town of Malanville, there are signs the border closure is starting to hit sectors of the economy, Cherif Babio, a spokesperson for the mayor's office told Reuters.

"On the day following the decision to impose sanctions, trucks that were already in transit passed through. However, the others that arrived afterward are currently blocked at the corridor," Babio said.

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