FG orders Aiteo to stop operation at Santa Barbara oil field

Santa Barbara River flowing with crude oil Courtesy: ERA/FoEN

The Federal Government has directed Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company (AEEPCO), to stop operation in the affected oilfield spewing oil at the Worikuma-kiri, off Santa Barbara River, Nembe in Bayelsa State, pending investigation.

A statement by Press Director, Ministry of Environment, Saghir el Mohammed, in Abuja, indicated that the government has ordered Aiteo not to operate in the area until a proper investigation is carried out and adequate measures put in place to ensure safety of lives and property.

The Ministry defended that this is a proactive measure to address the recent unfortunate oil spillage at Santa Barbara.

The statement reads: “The Federal Government has directed the exploration company, AITEO Eastern Exploration and Production Company Limited (AEEPCo), to halt operations in the area until a proper investigation is carried out.

“Also, adequate measures will be put in place to ensure the safety of lives and property in the area.

“It can be recalled that the spill occurred on Nov. 5, 2021, in the form of a fountain 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), was set up.

“Also, the state Ministry of Environment, Community representatives and Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company was set up on Nov. 6, 2021 to immediately address the situation.

“The exercise was inclusive because of inaccessibility to the wellhead location due to the hydrocarbon fumes that saturated the atmosphere in the area.

“Consequently, the JIT directed AEEPCo to shut down the impacted asset (well head) for appropriate oil spill response.”

Accordingly, Aiteo deployed booms and skimmers to contain the spill crude oil from spreading.

However, this has not helped much as the River is now flowing with crude oil, thereby impacting the aquatic life and livelihood of the inhabitants of the area.

The statement continues: “As at Nov. 10, 2021, efforts to shut the well have proven difficult due to inaccessibility.

“Meanwhile, in an effort to safeguard the environment and livelihood, staff from the NOSDRA’s Yenagoa Field Office were deployed to the site to monitor and give a progress report on the measures being taken to address the issue.

“There is a further directive to AEEPCo to engage all relevant stakeholders in the spilled oil recovery process.

“In this vein, 3,000 barrels of emulsified crude oil have been recovered and held in a recovery barge.

“Also, additional booms were deployed by the Clean Nigeria Association (CNA) System to work with the on-site recovery contractor.

“Further effort yielded results as containment and recovery within the leak area have been reinforced by Nov. 15,” the statement reveals.

The action is to address the situation that includes clean-up of impacted areas, remediation of spill sites as well as damage assessment and post-spill impact assessment.

Mohammed said the CNA has mobilised to site for enhanced containment and recovery.

He added that Boot and Coots also mobilised for well control and securing, while Aiteao has secured temporary work permits for expatriates expected in the country for the activity.

According to him, based on JIT reports, a well control company (Kenyon International) was at the incident location for an on-site assessment.

“Meanwhile, containment and recovery are still on-going. It is instructive to note that the wellhead experts have arrived Nigeria and will commence work on killing the well.

“However, in order to ensure safety and guarantee future operations in the area by AEEPCo, NOSDRA has mandated the company to carry out concrete actions.

“The action is to address the situation that includes clean-up of impacted areas, remediation of spill sites as well as damage assessment and post-spill impact assessment.

“NOSDRA, through the Federal Ministry of Environment, will keep the public informed on future developments on the spill incident with an effort to contain further spread and limit the effect on the environment,” the statement concluded.

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