The Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) yesterday vowed to ensure that restorative action as well as compensation was paid to those impacted by the Santa Barbara Wellhead spill, operated by Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company (AEEPC) in Bassambiri, Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
In a statement in Abuja, Chief Executive Officer of the new commission, Mr. Gbenga Komolafe, explained that the NURPC had continued to monitor the situation since it was first reported and would fulfill its regulatory mandate as enshrined in the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021, the Petroleum Act and the Petroleum (Drilling and Production) Regulations and subsidiary legislations.
In addition, Komolafe noted that the commission would continue to guide the operator until the spill and its attendant problems were completely addressed.
According to him, this includes but is not limited to implementing all effective physical and engineering solutions on 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 and that the already released oil is appropriately contained and skimmed off as it is being released.
“We will further make sure that a Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) is conducted as soon as it is safe to do so, ensure that clean up and restorative actions are done immediately after the spill is stopped and that compensation is paid to affected communities timeously and in accordance with the law,” the NURPC posited.
While appreciating the concerns raised in different quarters following the incident, the commission assured the general public that it had taken all necessary steps alongside the relevant stakeholders to ensure that the situation does not degenerate further.
Recalling the efforts so far, Komolafe stressed that upon receiving the report of the incident, the operator, Aiteo mobilised 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,” the commission said.
It stated that apart from checking to confirm that the company is carrying out the necessary response measures to contain the situation, it had made its officials available to participate in containment procedures that are considered safe by the experts at the moment.
Consequently, NURPC posited that the initial spill report had been received and appropriately reviewed and documented while updates are received diligently.It recalled that the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva and the commission’s chief executive had visited communities around the spill site to brief them of safety measures already put in place as well as assure them of the commitment to sort out the situation in the shortest possible time.
“In line with our statutory responsibility, operations at the site are under the supervision of the commission and efforts are ongoing 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 authorised 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,” it stated.
Komolafe emphasised that under the 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.
As part of its strategic plans for incident management, Komolafe noted that the operators had 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 environments 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,” Komolafe added.