The Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) has reiterated its commitment to tackle oil spills in oil and gas sector in fulfillment of its regulatory mandate as enshrined in Petroleum Industry Act 2021.
Mr Gbenga Komolafe, NUPRC Chief Executive in a statement on Friday, expressed commitment to address oil spills in the sector to fulfil its Petroleum Act and the Petroleum (Drilling and Production) Regulations and subsidiary legislations.
According to him, this assurance become necessary following concerns trailing the oil spill incident of Nov. 3, which occurred at Santa Barbara Well, operated by AITEO Eastern Exploration and Production Company, Nembe Local Government Area, Bayelsa
Komolafe stated that the Commission would continue to monitor the site situation and guide the operator until the spill and its attendant problems were completely addressed.
“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,” he said.
He said it was confirmed that upon receiving the report of the incident, the operator, AlTEO mobilised immediately for preliminary assessment of site conditions.
According to him, based on specific site requirements, the firm positioned containment booms to isolate the spill source and prevent oil from spreading further; while cordoning off the area to prevent injuries to people and fire from any possible ignition source.
The Chief Executive noted that it also called in Boots and Coots, a well disaster management company, from the U.S, to cap the pressure and stop the further spill.
He said that Clean Nigeria Associates (CNA) was also engaged to contain and recover the oil as well as manage and protect the immediate environment, adding that 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 mobilised and are currently on the ground for regulatory oversight assessment to determine the probable cause(s) and ensure response actions are the most effective to return normalcy fastly.
“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,” he said.
Recalled that Chief Timipre Sylva, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, and NUPRC Chief Executive visited communities around the spill site to brief them on safety measures put in place and assure them of NUPRC’s commitment to sort out the situation shortly.
Komolafe, however, noted that relevant and verified information about the development were also being released routinely to the public to avoid misinformation.
In line with its statutory responsibility, he said operations at the site were under the supervision of the Commission and efforts were ongoing to contain the spill, stop the flow, control and clean up the spill.
NUPRC boss also disclosed that 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.
“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,” he said.
As part of its strategic plans for incident management, he further said that the operators had been mandated to activate Environmental Management Plans (EMP) which included Environmental Compliance Monitoring (ECM) among other response actions.
He explained that at the end of the clean-up exercise, it would supervise the operators to conduct Post Impact Assessment (PIA) studies to determine the far-reaching effects of the spills with a view to restoring the impacted environment as near as possible to their pristine state.