The Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), has reiterated its commitment to tackle oil spills in oil and gas sector in fulfilment of its regulatory mandate as enshrined in Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021.
The reassurance followed increasing concerns trailing the oil spill incident which occurred on November 3, at the Santa Barbara Well, operated by AITEO Eastern Exploration and Production Company (AEEPC), Nembe Local Government Area, Bayelsa State.
The Commission Chief Executive (CCE), Gbenga Komolafe, in a statement on Friday, pledged to address oil spills as stipulated in the PIA and the Petroleum (Drilling and Production) Regulations and subsidiary legislations.
Komolafe also said the Commission will continue to monitor the site situation and guide the operator until the spill and its attendant problems are completely addressed.
He said: “This includes but is not limited to implementing effective physical and engineering solutions to the incident, managing the safety of the response providers and people in the neighbouring communities and educating the 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, clean up 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 concerns raised in different quarters following the incident and wish to inform the public and our stakeholders that NUPRC has taken necessary steps alongside the relevant stakeholders to ensure that the situation does not degenerate.”
Komolafe noted that aside from the measures taken by Aiteo to contain the leak, the Commission also mobilised its team promptly to the site, “and are currently on ground for regulatory oversight assessment to determine probable cause(s) and ensure response actions are the most effective to return to normalcy.
“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.”
He added that the initial spill report has been received and appropriately reviewed and documented while updates are received diligently, even as relevant and verified information about the development were also being released routinely to the public to avoid misinformation.”
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.
In line with its statutory responsibility, he said operations at the site were under the supervision of the Commission and efforts were on-going to contain the spill, stop the flow, control and clean-up the spill.
Furthermore, he said preliminary investigations revealed that there were no fatalities in the incident though 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.
He continued: “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 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 its strategic plans for incident management, Komolafe also said the facility operators had been mandated to activate Environmental Management Plans (EMP), which included Environmental Compliance Monitoring (ECM) among other response actions.
He equally assured that the Commission will supervise and commit the operators to conduct Post Impact Assessment (PIA) studies at the end of the clean-up exercise to determine far-reaching effects of the spills with a view to restoring the impacted environment as near as possible to their pristine state.