National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) said on Thursday that it has commenced investigations into the explosion which occurred within OML 29 operated by Aiteo Eastern Exploration..
It will be recalled that an explosion from an oil well within the oil block on March 1 ignited a fire, which Aiteo officials said was put off on March 2, and discharged crude and gas into the environment.
NOSDRA Director-General, Dr Peter Idabor, had said in a telephone interview on Wednesday that a Joint Investigative Visit (JIV) had been scheduled for Thursday to ascertain the possible cause of the incident.
The volume of crude and gas discharged into the surrounding environment arising from the explosion is yet to be ascertained.
Idabor explained that the JIV, a statutory probe of leak incidents in the oil and gas sector would determine the cause of the explosion, volume of oil leakage as well as assess damage to the environment.
He said that a JIV report signed by representatives of the community, NOSDRA, Bayelsa Government and the oil firm who participated in the investigation was expected at the end of the probe.
A member of the joint investigative team who spoke to a NAN correspondent from the Nembe Creek field said that the team was yet to arrive at a conclusion on the cause of the blast.
“The JIV is still ongoing, it was not rounded up as we progressed with physical inspections on Thursday without arriving at the probable cause from physical examinations.
“There appears the need for a more detailed and technical assessment to understand the primary cause of the incident prior to explosion that is more visible at moment on the “riser”. At the well head.
“The investigation therefore requires further details and is still open,” Donald Egba a community representative on the JIV said.
However, a statement signed by Management of the oil firm made available by its Public Relations Manager, Mr Ndiana-Abasi Mathew on Mach 2, confirmed that there was no human casualty.
Aiteo pledged that investigation into the incident was a priority.
Aiteo further stated that the explosion did not affect the 97 km Nembe Creek Trunk Line (NCTL) which was shut down on Feb. 28 prior to the incident.
However, fears that oil export would be affected by the outage of the 150,000 barrels per day capacity export line were allayed as the JIV team member said that the facility has been restarted.
“The NCTL from our findings at the field is up and running as the incident did not in any way have links with the pipeline. It was shut down when a leak was detected. The leak has been fixed and it restarted on Thursday while we were at the field.
Shell Petroleum Development Company in 2015, divested its equity in OML 29 and transferred its interest in the oil block including NCTL for $1.7 billion to Aiteo, an indigenous Oil and Gas Exploration and Production firm.
It will be recalled that an official each of NOSDRA, Bayelsa Ministry of Environment and 11 others, in 2016, died from a pipeline explosion during a Joint Investigative Visit at Agip’s oilfield in Southern Ijaw Local Government of Bayelsa.
NOSDRA had earlier said that Aiteo was resisting its efforts to probe the cause of the explosion in Nembe.
Mr Francis Umeh, Head of NOSDRA’s field Offfice in Bayelsa had said in Yenagoa that Aiteo had frustrated plans by the spill agency to visit the site for assessment.
He regretted that the stance of the oil firm was slowing NOSDRA from promptly carrying out its mandate.
“We are experiencing resistance from the operator and we are currently mounting pressure on them for us to be given access to visit the site for preliminary assessment and so far they have been uncooperative.
“The incident occurred on Friday and it took them some time to report it officially to NOSDRA. We had plans to visit the site but the operator is resisting and frustrating our efforts.
“We are in touch with our Zonal Office and Headquarters on this and we are briefing them on developments..
“We also want to commence a Joint Investigative Visit (JIV) at once if the environment is conducive. It is the JIV that will establish the cause of the explosion and the volume of oil discharged,” Umeh said.
On the claims by Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Exploration Company that investigations into the explosion which occurred at an oil well within Aiteo’s oil block in Nembe had commenced, Umeh said that NOSDRA was not part of the said probe.
However, a statement signed by Management of the oil firm made available by its Public Relations Manager, Mr Ndiana-Abasi Mathew on March 2 claimed that investigation into the incident was underway and being given priority.
“On 2 March 2019, a suspected explosion occurred within the vicinity of Nembe Creek Well 7, behind Mile 1 Community in Bayelsa State, which is not too far from Nembe field logistics base.
“Despite initial challenges, our operations team members were able to access the well head area when the fire had completely died down on early hours of 2nd March.
“Preliminary investigations confirm that there were no fatalities; human incidents or damage to community property. All the wells and facilities in the immediate vicinity have been inspected and secured.
“Full investigations to determine the cause of the fire and, in particular, to determine whether this may have been caused by third-party infractions, remain ongoing.
“These investigations are being pursed with the utmost urgency and have been given the highest priority.
“We are continuing to work with all the relevant authorities to restore full functionality to all the relevant installations and affected areas,” Aiteo had stated.