The Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) has reiterated its commitment to tackle oil spills in the Nigerian oil and gas sector in fulfillment of its regulatory mandate as enshrined in the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021, Petroleum Act and the Petroleum (Drilling and Production) Regulations and subsidiary legislations.
In a statement signed by the Commission Chief Executive, Engr. Gbenga Komolafe, the assurance has become necessary following concerns trailing the oil spill incident of November 3, 2021 which occurred at the Santa Barbara Well 1 operated by AITEO Eastern Exploration and Production Company in Bassambiri, Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
The Commission will continue to monitor the site situation and guide the operator until the spill and its attendant problems are completely addressed. This includes 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 educating the general public on the site situation periodically.
In specific terms, the Commission will ensure that the pressure from the well is stopped to put an end to the oil release, the already released oil is appropriately contained and skimmed off as it is being released, a joint investigation visit (JIV) is conducted as soon as it is safe to do so, cleanup and restorative actions are done immediately after the spill is stopped and compensation paid to affected communities timeously and 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.
It was 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 also cordoning off the area to prevent injuries to people and fire from any possible ignition source.
It also called in Boots and Coots, a well disaster management company, from the US, to cap the pressure and stop further spill. Clean Nigeria Associates (CNA) was also engaged to contain and recover the oil as well as manage and protect the immediate environment. The company has continually updated the NUPRC on site conditions and their action steps.
On receipt of reports of the incident by the Commission, our field operations team were promptly mobilised and are currently on ground for regulatory oversight assessment to determine probable cause(s) and to ensure all response actions are 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, the Commission has made its officials available to participate in containment procedures that are considered safe by the experts at this moment. Initial spill report has been received and appropriately reviewed and documented while updates are received diligently.
When the incident occurred, the Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and the Commission’s Chief Executive visited communities around the spill site to brief them of safety measures already put in place as well as assure them of the commitment of the Commission to sort out the situation in the shortest possible time. Relevant and verified information about the development are also being released routinely to the public to avoid misinformation.
In line with our statutory responsibility, operations at the site is under the supervision of the Commission and efforts are on-going to contain the spill, stop the flow, control and clean-up the spill.
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.
Under this arrangement, such companies are required to document all necessary response actions in their Oil Spill Contingency Plan which is routinely and painstakingly reviewed by the Commission; and which is to be activated for response in emergency situations. Details of the regulatory requirements are contained in the PIA 2021 and further enunciated in the EGASPIN 2018. These form the basis of our strategic focus to achieve zero incidences going forward.
As part of our strategic plans for incident management, the operators have been mandated to activate Environmental Management Plans (EMP) which includes Environmental Compliance Monitoring (ECM) among other response actions. At the end of the clean-up exercise, the Commission will 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.