The Federal Government has directed the exploration company, AITEO Eastern Exploration and Production Company Limited (AEEPCo) to halt operations in Santa Barbara until a proper investigation is carried out and adequate measures put in place to ensure the safety of lives and property in the area.
The directive is part of proactive measures to address the recent unfortunate oil spillage at Santa Barbara, Nembe local government area of Bayelsa State.
Recall that the spill occurred on November 5, 2021, in a fountain form within the proximity of Opu Nembe community at Well 1, well head located at the southern field of Santa Barbara.
Upon receipt of the report of the incident, a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) comprising the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment, community representatives and Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company was set up on November 6, 2021, to immediately address the situation. The exercise was inclusive because of inaccessibility to the wellhead, due to the hydrocarbon fumes that saturated the atmosphere in the area.
Consequently, the JIT directed AEEPCo to shut in the impacted asset (wellhead) for appropriate response. Accordingly, AEEPCo deployed booms and skimmers to contain the spilled from spreading.
As of November 10, 2021, efforts to shut in the well proved difficult, due to inaccessibility. But to safeguard the environment and livelihood, staff from NOSDRA’s Yenagoa field office were deployed to the site to monitor and give progress reports on the measures being taken to address the issue. There are further directives to AEEPCo to engage all relevant stakeholders in the recovery process.
In this vein, 3000 barrels of emulsified crude oil have been recovered and held in a recovery barge. Also, additional booms were deployed by the Clean Nigeria Associates, a tier II response (CNA) system, to work with the on-site recovery contractor.
The further effort yielded results as containment and recovery within the leak area were reinforced by November 15,2021. Clean Nigeria Associates (CNA) mobilized to the site for enhanced containment and recovery, Boot & Coots mobilized for well control and securing, while AEEPCo has secured a temporary work permit for expatriates expected in the country for the activity. Logistics support and arrangement build-up for the well-kill activity are currently ongoing.
Based on JIT reports, a well-control company (Kenyon International) visited the location for an on-site assessment, while containment and recovery were still ongoing.
However, to ensure safety and guarantee future operations in the area by AEEPCo, NOSDRA has mandated the company to carry out concrete actions to address the situation that include clean-up of impacted areas, remediation of spill site as well as damage assessment and post spill impact assessment.
A statement by the director, press and public relations, Federal Ministry of Environment, Saghir el Mohammed, said NOSDRA, through the ministry will keep the public informed of future developments on the spill incident with an effort to contain further spread and limit the effect on the environment.