The fire incident from a suspected associated gas reservoir within the vicinity of Caritas University in Enugu, on May 22, 2022 was not as a result of the pipeline right of way in the area, the Nigerian Petroleum Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) has confirmed said.
The Commission said in a clarification by its Chief Executive Officer, Gbenga Komolafe, that the incident, which was reported on May 26, 2022, was as a result of the activities of some contractors drilling a water borehole on the premises of the University.
“It was confirmed that there is no pipeline right of way in the area and that the incident was caused by theactivities of some contractors who were drilling a water borehole on the premises of the University,” the CEO said in a statement.
Komolafe said on receipt of the incident report, the upstream petroleum industry regulator, alongside other related agencies, immediately carried out an investigation and discovered that the incident happened in the process of drilling a water well with a target drill depth of 400 meters for the University.
He said the university had engaged the services of HydroGeo Engineering Services for the drilling of water boreholes, but the job was later sub-contracted to Orange Water Wells Drilling Company.
In the course of the drilling, he said pressurized seepage was encountered after about 200 meters and fumes were gushing out of the drilled hole.
“One of the workers who suspected the fumes to be gas seepage reportedly wanted to confirm his suspicion, and in the process introduced a source of ignition, which led to the fire outbreak. It was the unfortunate action that provided a stronger basis for the qualification of the fumes as associated gas,” he explained.
Following the fire outbreak, NUPRC boss said the drilling contractor swiftly removed the drill pipes, demobilised the rig and immediately notified the Enugu state government of the incident.
Also, he said the state and federal fire services, which were mobilised to the site, battled the fire for more than two days, while the university authority cordoned off the site and restricted access to the area, and directed the immediate discontinuation of the usage of all facilities within the affected area, including a nearby hall used for examinations.
Komolafe said officials of the NUPRC in collaboration with officials of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA), Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC), Nigerian Civil Defence and Security Corps (NCDSC) and other related enforcement agencies visited the site on May 27 and 31, 2022 respectively for preliminary investigation to ascertain the status of the incident.
The combined team also gained insight on the cause of the incident, to determine immediate safety and geo-technical measures required to put off the fire and prevent loss of lives, property and damage to the environment.
During the visits, Komolafe said the officials confirmed no fatality recorded as a result of the incident, although a staff of the drilling company had sustained first-degree burns and was treated and discharged from the hospital.
Findings from the preliminary investigations were that there is no pipeline right of way in the area, as there was a continuous supply of gas from the underground source evidenced by the continuous fire which is suggestive of the presence of shallow gas suspected to have been associated with coal bed methane gas or gas seepage.
In both cases, he said the Commission believed the incident may not necessarily have been a reservoir accumulation, but associated gas which the drilling process provided a flow line; a development similar to incidents associated with coal mines.
He assured that plans were being finalised by Caritas University to carry out Geophysical Resistivity Survey of the area from June 3, 2022 to acquire data that would give better insight on the near surface gas concentration in the area and its potential spread.
Also, he said an all-inclusive stakeholder engagement took place in Enugu on June 1, 2022 for alignment deliberations and mutual commitment to achieve the immediate killing of the fire and stoppage of the gas leakage.
The NUPRC CEO said the Commission was proactively collaborating with all relevant stakeholders and determined to deploy appropriate technology to ensure the fire was put off and the source of gas leakage was sealed to ensure environmental sustainability and safety of lives and property.
Already, he said the Commission identified an indigenous company with verified competence and proven track record in managing related fire incidents, while intervention options being considered were to be finalised after another visit scheduled for June 6, 2022.