Aiteo, the operators of OML 29 Wellhead in the Santa Barbara South field I Nembe, Bayelsa State, which blew up on Nov 3, has disputed claims by Bayelsa State Government that the magnitude of the oil spill that followed was worse than the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The state government had made the claim on Wednesday after the state governor, Duoye Diri had returned from a visit to the oil spill site in Nembe Local Government Area of the state.
The governor’s spokesman, Dan Alabrah claimed that an estimated two million barrels of crude had been spilled into the river, polluting the flora and fauna of the area.
During a tour of the affected area, it was observed that the oil spillage in the immediate vicinity of the wellhead was minimal, as it was contained by booms. There were, however, traces of light oil along some of the waters some distance from the ground zero.
Speaking on the spill, the firm’s Global Group Director/Coordinator, Andrew Oru, explained that booms are temporary floating barriers used to contain marine spills, protect the environment and assist in recovery.
Explaining why the leakage at OML 29 Wellhead was not worse, Oru said the spill was of a special type – a gas blowout – which involved 80 per cent gas and 20 per cent oil. He further noted that this contrasted with the impression being created that the entire environment had been seriously polluted. Oru described as “spurious” claims that the leak spilled two million barrels of oil into the creeks, explaining that the well’s production capacity, including its total reserves, was nowhere near two million barrels.
“The talk of two million barrels of oil spilling from the well is spurious. Two million barrels is about two super tankers; the oil would have spread over the entire country. The reserve of the well itself is nowhere near two million barrels,” he said.
While assuring the community that all was being done to prevent any humanitarian or ecological disaster, Oru added that the pressure of the well had been substantially diminished already, because all the chemicals that are needed to put the pressure under control are been fed in continuously .
“This spill is a special type. It’s not just an oil spill, it’s a gas blowout, for whatever reason. There are two stages in containing it. The first one is to stop the gas leakage. The second is to fill the well.
“It is the gas leakage that engenders and creates room for some droplets of oil to escape with gas. The well is a gas well, 80 per cent gas and about 20 per cent oil; that is why it is relatively easy for us to contain the amount of oil that spills out. Ordinarily, if what is coming out now were oil, I can imagine that we’ll be needing Noah’s Ark by now.”
He further noted that the heavy vegetation of the area by which oxygen is emitted in large quantities and which flows freely as well had also helped to absorb gaseous emissions. But critically speaking, the pressure of the gas that is coming out has been almost completely extinguished and in one or two days maximum, I believe we will proceed further to begin the well kill process,” Oru said.
The company also donated five truckloads of palliative, including food and medical supplies, to the Nembe Kingdom.
Chairman of Opu-Nembe Council of Chiefs, Chief Ori Ango Ekpeleyai-Oruwari, who spoke on behalf of the Nembe monarch, said: “On behalf of the Amanayanbo of Opu-Nembe Kingdom, I receive these relief materials that are coming to our community for the second time. For those who are directly impacted in the oil spillage from OML 29 at Santa Barbara we are indeed very grateful to Aiteo for bringing this relief materials to us.”
Items donated include ten cows, 500 bags of rice, 500 cartons of noodles, 500 cartons of water, 500 tubers of yam, 200 cartons of toilet rolls, 200 cartons of milk, 200 bags of garri, 200 cartons of tin tomatoes, 100 cartons of beverages and 100 cartoons of vegetable oil.