Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company (AEEPCO), operator of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation/Aiteo Joint Venture (JV), Oil Mining Lease (OML) 29 yesterday disclosed that it was working with both foreign and local experts to curtail the oil leakage, which occurred in one of its Niger Delta assets earlier in the month.
On Friday, the company had reported a hydrocarbon wellhead leak in its Santa Barbara, South-west Field, in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
It stated that the well, which the company acquired in 2015, had been mostly dormant, having been securely isolated since then.
Aiteo, in a statement signed by its Media Contact, Mr Matthew Ndiana, explained that aside urgent possible technical responses to contain the leak, it had sought the collaboration of Clean Nigeria Associates (CNA) which has since mobilised to site.
While pointing out that the company had deployed its internal resources to reinforce containment and recovery efforts, Aiteo said that “well killing” assessment site visit had been carried out to evaluate the assets and earmark the resources required to bring the effusion under control.
“CNA is the industry non-profit umbrella body with expertise and resource to contain spills of this nature. In the meantime however, the area has been cordoned off and CNA is mobilising additional resources to strengthen the containment effort.
“The required apparatus, including heavy duty and specialist equipment are presently being mobilised, locally and internationally, on a fast-track basis, to bring the well under control.
“For this purpose, Aiteo has on-boarded the involvement of the renowned, Boots & Coots, arguably the leading well control company in the world, working with a local resource.
“Upon this intervention and conclusion, it is expected that the persistence of the leak alongside its functional consequences will be abated and significantly diminished,” the statement stressed.
It reiterated that an accurate cause of the leak had not been ascertained as priority attention had been focused on containing the consequences of what it described as a most undesirable and unforeseen incident.
According to the indigenous oil firm, upon noticing the leak, Aiteo notified all relevant regulatory agencies and thereafter mobilised containment resources to limit impact on the environment.
It added that as required, Aiteo promptly called for a Joint Inspection Visit (JIV), emphasising that due to the high-pressure effusion, the JIV team could not reach the location, a development that aborted the inspection.
Aiteo stated that since then, it had activated an elaborate and extensive spillage containment response in the internationally prescribed manner, explaining that though spills of the current nature are not uncommon in the oil and gas industry, their resolution requires expert skill and equipment that are not routinely or readily available.
“The typical process is to first kill the well and stop the leak and then focus on the clean-up,” the company maintained.
Aiteo disclosed that its senior personnel had also visited the affected communities and made available, for the use of the communities, relief materials aimed at ameliorating the direct consequences of the incident.
“The communities visited include Opu-Nembe Kingdom, where the Aiteo delegation was received by the King, His Royal Majesty, Dr. Biobelemoye Josiah Ogbodo VIII, his council of chiefs and all sections of the society,” said the oil company.
During the visit, the statement quoted the monarch as saying that: “…We are happy that Aiteo has initiated this visit to support the community at this time and urge them to continue to work with us as partners in progress on its corporate goals in the community.”
It further stressed that Aiteo’s Group Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Benedict Peters had extended his assurances to the affected communities and confirmed that the company was doing everything in its power to contain the spill and ameliorate the situation as rapidly, safely and responsibly as possible.
“We have mobilised best-in-class resources and expertise to put this mishap behind us. Rest assured of our resolve to limit the escape of oil and protect the ecosystem from its effects,” the statement quoted Peters as saying.
Aiteo said that it remains committed to ascertaining, immediately that the well head is secure, and probe the immediate and remote causes of the leak which will be driven by a JIV that will follow.
“Nevertheless, it is important that we affirm our preliminary view, based on our assessment of the proximate circumstances, that it will be difficult to exclude deliberate tampering of the well by oil thieves attempting to siphon crude directly from the well head. In our view, sabotage remains the most imminent cause of this incident,” Aiteo added.
It pointed out that oil theft and asset vandalism continue to present the biggest challenge it faces in the operations of oil and gas production in the Niger Delta area. “It has continued to damage the production profile of oil producers in so many ways,” he said.
While commending the relevant security agencies with whom it said it had been interfacing to combat the menace, Aiteo said it believed the need and capacity to provide significantly more remain overwhelmingly critical.
“Aiteo feels deeply concerned about the occurrence of the incident at all. The circumstances and fortunes of the immediate community remain our most anxious consideration and, at this time, have assumed the highest priority, alongside making safe the well and its immediate environs.
“It is our fervent desire that in the attainment of this intensely challenging objective, the interests of the proximate community continues to be safeguarded in every material respect by the collective efforts of our company and all the industry professionals whose involvement Aiteo has convoked,” the statement explained.