Oil spills agency accuses Aiteo of blocking Bayelsa fire probe

The National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) has said the operators of Nembe Creek Oilfields within OML 29 is resisting its efforts to probe the cause of Friday’s explosion in Nembe.

The revelation comes against the background of claims by Aiteo that the fire incident was being investigated.

Aiteo Exploration Ltd, operator of the 97 kilometre Nembe Creek Trunk Line (NCTL), had said in a statement that there was no loss of life in the explosion, which occurred on the crude export pipeline.

The company said the suspected explosion occurred in the Niger Delta, within the vicinity of Nembe Creek Well 7, behind Mile 1 Community in Bayelsa State, Nigeria.

It added however that despite initial challenges, its operations team was able to access the well head area when the fire had completely died down on early hours of the next day.

“Preliminary investigations confirm that there were no fatalities; human incidents or damage to community property,” the company said.

“All the wells and facilities in the immediate vicinity have been inspected and secured. This incident did not occur at or involve any part of the 97 kilometre pipeline, Nembe Creek Trunk Line (NCTL) or other pipelines.

“It is important to note that prior to this incident, all facilities have been shut down since 28 of February 2019 due to NCTL outage. Accordingly, any account suggesting that this incident arose from or affected any pipelines is wholly inaccurate and misleading.”

The company said 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 are 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.”

But in his reaction, Francis Umeh, head of NOSDRA’s field Office in Bayelsa 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,” he said.

“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.”

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, the NOSDRA official said that the organisation was not part of the said probe.

Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), in 2015, divested its equity in OML 29 and transferred its interest for $1.7 bn to Aiteo, an indigenous Oil and Gas Exploration and Production firm.

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