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NOSDRA, Environmentalists, trail Bayelsa oil spill to Conoil’s facility

Investigation into the Jan. 16, oil spill near Funiwa offshore facilities off the Atlantic coast,near Bayelsa has taken regulators and environmentalists beyond Chevron facilities to nearby Auntie Julie platform.

The team, which on Jan. 23, visited communities affected by the oil leakage in Koluama in Southern Ijaw Local government on Friday continued its effort in tracing the source of the leakage.

They took samples from the polluted sites for laboratory analysis in a bid to arrive at an evidence-based conclusion.

Fishermen around the Atlantic Ocean coastline had on Jan. 17 sighted and reported an oil leak suspected to be from the Funiwa fields following the leakage of the previous day.

However, the operator of the nearby Funiwa field, Chevron denied responsibility for the leakage.

Chevron and Conoil Producing Limited have operations near the spill incident location.

It was gathered that the investigating team comprising officials of National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Bayelsa government officials and impacted communities are visiting Conoil’s facility at Sangana waters in Bayelsa.

Mr Alagoa Morris, an environmentalist and Head of Field Operations, Environment Right Action, a civil society body who was part of the delegation, said the team was examining the surrounding facilities to trace the source of spill.

Morris said that the search beyond Chevron field follows denial by Chevron that the leak was not from its facilities and none of the operators from the area has taken responsibility.

He noted that the team beamed its searchlight following a reported leak at the Conoil field which was yet to be plugged to verify if the spillage polluting nearby communities had links with the facility.

Morris said the team was concerned over Conoil’s continued failure to appropriately respond to an undersea leak in its oilfield pipeline in the state, since Sept. 3 , 2020.

It will be recalled that NOSDRA Director General Idris Musa had confirmed the incident at Conoil’s field on Dec. 2, 2020 and berated the company for operating in breach of regulatory guidelines.

Musa said that Conoil had the habit of causing avoidable spills and had previously been sanctioned for degrading the environment.

“This oil company has been spilling oil for a period of time now, from our findings, it is from an underwater pipeline under pressure creating bubbles on the water surface.

“All the directives given to it to contain the oil spill, shut down and replace the leaking pipeline, near shore in Sangana, Bayelsa, fell on deaf ears.

“The agency sanctioned the company for this untoward act, but nothing has changed. The leakage continues and the oil company behaves irresponsibly even though it is a Nigerian oil firm,” Musa said.

According to information on the Conoil’s website, the facility, a mobile offshore production unit commissioned in 1999, has capacity to produce 80,000 barrels of crude daily.

Mr Abiodun Azeez, Media Relations Manager at Conoil declined to respond to the allegations from NOSDRA.

All efforts to get the reaction of the oil firm by e-mail, short message services and telephone calls have remained unanswered.

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