Nigeria has inaugurated a 6th unit at its largest natural gas export plant, lifting annual shipments by a fifth to 22 million tpy, an official declared during the past few weeks.

The $1.6bn unit took 3 years to build and should raise annual sales of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the whole complex, located on Bonny Island in the southern Niger Delta, to around $6bn.

“It produced its first LNG on 23rd December (2007) and is now going through performance tests,” said Ifeanyi Mbanefo, a spokesman for the plant.

Nigeria LNG is controlled by a group of Western companies that produce all the plant's feedstock, these being Royal Dutch Shell, Total and Eni unit Agip. State-run Nigeria National Petroleum Corp. owns 49%.

In 2005, Halliburton said ‘improper payments’ to Nigerian officials may have been made to win one of the contracts. Nigeria then opened an investigation into allegations that the consortium paid $180m in bribes for the deal, but its findings have never been made public.

Nigeria LNG is currently in talks with bidders for a 7th unit, which would take total annual capacity to around 30 million tonnes, and a final investment decision is expected shortly. In addition, there are two greenfield LNG projects in Nigeria which are both overdue for a final investment decision, and two more in the conceptual stage.