News - Oil & Gas - December 4, 2021

What Nigeria’s upstream petroleum industry regulator is doing to contain Nembe oil spill impact          


The Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) has assured of its commitment to ensuring strict compliance of regulations on oil spills in the Nigerian oil and gas sector in fulfillment of its regulatory mandate under the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021, Petroleum Act and the Petroleum (Drilling and Production) Regulations and subsidiary legislations.

The Commission’s Chief Executive, Gbenga Komolafe, gave the assurance amidst concerns trailing the recent oil spill incident at the Santa Barbara Well 1 in Bassambiri, Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State operated by one of Nigeria’s indigenous operators, AITEO Eastern Exploration and Production Company.

Komolafe said the Commission would insist on monitoring the spill site situation, to guide the operator until the spill and its attendant problems were completely addressed.

He said the monitoring exercise would include, but is not limited to implementing all effective physical and engineering solutions to the incident, managing the safety of the response providers and people in the neighbouring communities and periodically educating the general public on the site situation.

Specifically, the CEO said the Commission would ensure the pressure from the well was stopped, to put an end to the oil release, while ensuring the already released oil was appropriately contained and skimmed off.

Besides, he said the agency would ensure a joint investigation visit (JIV) was conducted as soon as it was safe to clean up the already released oil, to allow for restorative actions to be taken immediately after the spill was stopped and compensation paid to affected communities timeously in accordance with the law.

“We appreciate the concerns raised in different quarters following the incident and wish to inform the general public and our stakeholders that the Commission has taken all necessary steps alongside the relevant stakeholders to ensure that the situation does not degenerate further.

“Remediation actions are already on-going to ensure that the spill is contained and the situation is brought under effective control,” he said.

Komolafe said the Commission confirmed that upon receiving the report of the incident, the operator, AITEO mobilized immediately for preliminary assessment of site conditions, and based on the specific site requirements, positioned containment booms to isolate the spill source and prevent oil from spreading further, while cordoning off the area to prevent injuries to people and fire from any possible ignition source.

He said the company also took other remedial measures, including calling in Boots and Coots, a well disaster management company, from the U.S., to cap the pressure and stop further spill.

Also, he said the company also engaged Clean Nigeria Associates (CNA) to help contain and recover the oil as well as manage and protect the immediate environment, while continually updating the NUPRC on site conditions and their action steps.

On receipt of reports of the incident, the CEO said the Commission’s field operations team promptly mobilized to site and since then have been on ground for regulatory oversight assessment to determine probable cause(s) and to ensure all response actions were the most appropriate and effective to return normalcy in the shortest possible time.

Apart from checking to confirm that the company is carrying out the necessary response measures to contain the situation, he said officials of the Commission have participated fully in the containment procedures that are considered safe by the experts at this moment.

He said initial spill report received were appropriately reviewed and documented, while updates continue to be received diligently.

On his part, Komolafe said immediately the incident was reported, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, led the Commission on a visit to the impacted communities around the spill site to brief them of safety measures already put in place as well as assured them of the commitment of the Commission to sort out the situation in the shortest possible time.

He said relevant and verified information about the development were also being released routinely to the public to avoid misinformation.

In line with the Commission’s statutory responsibility, Komolafe said operations at the site have since reverted to the strict supervision of the Commission, while efforts were on-going to contain the spill, stop the flow, control and clean-up the spill.

Currently, he said, the situation has been brought under control, while follow-up activities have commenced and progressing as planned.

“Our preliminary investigations have revealed that there were no fatalities in the incident. However crude oil and gas were seen gushing out from valves close to the top of the wellhead at high pressure, but without any associated fire. The water surrounding the wellhead was polluted with oil. The affected well had been previously shut-in and therefore not producing at the time of incident.

“While the incident is to be treated with care and the location approached with caution by only those authorized to do so, the Commission wishes to reiterate that there is no cause for panic. This is because on a routine basis and under the supervision of relevant teams from the Commission, all petroleum companies are mandated to conduct drill exercises to adequately prepare for all eventualities,” he said.

Under the current arrangement, he said companies involved in the remediation efforts were required to document all necessary response actions in their Oil Spill Contingency Plan, which is routinely and painstakingly reviewed by the Commission, and are to be activated for response in emergency situations.

Details of the regulatory requirements, he said, are contained in the PIA 2021 and further enunciated in the EGASPIN 2018, which form the basis of the Commission’s strategic focus to achieve zero incidences going forward.

As part of the Commission’s strategic plan for incident management, the CEO said the operators have been mandated to activate Environmental Management Plans (EMP), which include Environmental Compliance Monitoring (ECM), among other response actions.

At the end of the clean-up exercise, he said the Commission would supervise all the operators to conduct Post Impact Assessment (PIA) studies to determine the far-reaching effects of the spills, with a view to restoring all impacted environment as near as possible to their pristine state.

“The general public and all stakeholders are hereby assured that the Commission is taking every necessary action to ensure that the spills and associated incidents have the least impact on the affected communities and the environment,” he said.

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