A preliminary investigation into Friday’s fire that erupted following the explosion that affected the Rumuekpe section of Trans-Niger Pipeline (TNP) in Rivers State was as a result of the illegal activities of crude oil thieves, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) has said.
The SPDC disclosed this in an updated joint investigation statement on Sunday by representatives of regulators, host communities, operator and state Ministry of Environment.
Shortly after the incident was reported, the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) said it was working with other agencies with statutory regulatory oversight functions to carry out investigations on the cause of the incident.
The explosion reported last Thursday night was said to have resulted in a major fire incident near a pipeline in Rumuekpe Community in Emohua Local Government Area the state.
The Commission Chief Executive, Gbenga Komolafe, said in line with NUPRC’s statutory regulatory oversight of Upstream Petroleum operations in the Nigerian oil and gas industry immediately commenced investigations into the incident in conjunction with relevant stakeholders.
He promised to provide regular updates as they become available, adding that necessary measures were taken to ensure that all safety and environmental measures in line with global best practices to safeguard lives and the environment are put in place.
Residents said a minimum of 15 persons were trapped in the pit where the explosion occurred.
But the spokesperson for SPDC, Michael Adande, expressed regrets for the loss of lives in the incident and commiserated with families of the victims, adding that security agencies conducting rescue operations were yet to come up with the exact casualty figures.
Meanwhile, the Police in Rivers confirmed that about 10 persons died on Friday following the explosion.
The TNP operated by SPDC was dedicated to the evacuation of crude oil from oil fields in Rivers and parts of Bayelsa to the Bonny Crude Oil Export Terminal.
Adande said the fire at the Rumuekpe-Nkpoku trunk line in Rivers was put out before Saturday’s joint investigation began.
“The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC) confirms with great sadness that the fire incident, which occurred on Friday, March 3, 2023, on the Rumuekpe – Nkpoku Trunk Line in Rivers State, resulted in the unfortunate loss of lives.
“Government security agencies are still investigating to know the exact number of lives lost in the incident. This is indeed a deeply regrettable incident and we commiserate with the families that have been impacted.
“The report of the government-led Joint Investigation Visit team, which included representatives of the community, ascertained that the fire, which has been extinguished, occurred at the site of an illegal connection used for crude theft.
“The Rumuekpe – Nkpoku Trunk Line, which was not operational at the time of the incident, is part of the Trans Niger Pipeline (TNP),” he said. (NAN)