Contrary to claims by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) that the December 20 oil spill in its Bonga offshore field involved “less than 40,000 barrels”, latest satellite imaging by United States-based non-profit environmental awareness and protection group, SkyTruth,reveals that the volume could have been as high as 60,000 barrels.
Environmental analysts say the thickness of the oil slick on the waters adjoining the spill area, estimated at about 120 kilometres offshore Nigeria in the 200,000 barrels per day capacity Bonga oil field, was inconsistent with what Shell claimed as the volume of oil pumped into the ocean.
Shell, which blamed the spill on a leak on the export line linking the Floating Production Storage and Off-take Vessel (FPSO) to a tanker during the process of transferring crude oil, had said that the oil slick following the spill was “less than a hundredth of a millimeter” thick in most areas.
But, the environmental group has pointed out that with an oil slick estimate of 1/100th of a millimeter (an equivalent of 10 microns) provided by Shell, the spill volume could not have been anything less than 58,000 barrels (about 2.4 million gallons) or more.
SkyTruth President, John Amos, said: “We think the amount spilled is near the high end of Shell’s estimate of “up to” 1.68 million gallons (about 40,000 barrels), based on the size of the oil slick observed and the photos provided showing a rainbow sheen.
The thickness of “rainbow sheen” is in the 5 to 10 micron range according to the CONCAWE guidelines, and 0.3 to 5 micron range according to the BONN convention. The 5 microns overlap would mean a spill of at least 1.2 million gallons (28,571 barrels).”
Shell, which claimed yesterday that the oil slick has successfully dissipated and dispersed at more than 7.5 kilometres offshore following the use of chemical dispersants, insists whatever discrepancy is established between the real size of the spill and what it reported could be other spills from the facilities of other oil companies operating in the area.
But when contacted today, SPDC’s Manager, Communications and Media, Tony Okonedo, said he would not comment on claims by SkyTruth, as Shell was not aware of the basis upon which it based its estimates of the spill.
Also, contrary to claims by Shell as well as a declaration by the Minister of Environment, Hadiza Mailafia that the spill has not impacted the environment in some Niger Delta communities, some environmental rights groups in the region have cried out to the government to call the oil company to order.
The National Coordinator, Ogoni Solidarity Forum, Celestine AkpoBari, said President Goodluck Jonathan should emulate his United States counterpart, Barak Obama, who decisively held BP accountable following the explosion that involved the company’s deepwater oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.
“Shell believes it came to Nigeria to do business and not cater for the interest of the people in the area of its operation. Claims that only 40,000 barrels was involved in the Bonga oil field could not be true, just as it has always told lies about oil spills in Ogoniland.
“With a former staff of Shell as the current Minister of Petroleum Resources, no one should expect the company to say otherwise.
Similarly, a representative of the Ogoni Advancement Organisation, has condemned Hajia Mailafia over her media comments that oil spill did not impact coastal communities in the region, saying give the situation where the minister was flown to Bonga oil field with an helicopter provided by Shell, there was no way anyone would expect her not to be influenced to be biased in her observations.