Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company (AEEPCO), Operator of the NNPC /Aiteo Joint Venture of Oil Mining Lease (OML) 29 on Friday, 5 November 2021, reported a hydrocarbon well head leak in its Santa Barbara, Southwest field, in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
This well, non-producing since Aiteo’s acquisition in 2015, was predominantly dormant, having been securely isolated since then. As hitherto stated, an accurate cause of the leak has not been ascertained as both priority and attention has been focused on containing the consequences of this most undesirable and unforeseen incident.
Immediately upon noticing the leak, Aiteo notified all relevant regulatory agencies and thereafter mobilized containment resources to limit impact on the environment. As required, Aiteo promptly called for a Joint Inspection Visit (JIV).
Due to the high-pressure effusion, the JIV team could not reach the location and that inspection was aborted. Since then, Aiteo has activated an elaborate and extensive spillage containment response in the internationally prescribed manner.
Though spills of this nature are not uncommon to the oil and gas industry, their resolution requires expert skill and equipment that are not routinely or readily available. The typical process is to first kill the well and stop the leak and then focus on the clean-up.
Aside urgent possible technical responses to contain the leak, Aiteo has sought, become involved with and is now in active collaboration with Clean Nigeria Associates (CNA) that have since mobilized to site, in addition to Aiteo internal resources to reinforce containment and recovery efforts.
CNA is the industry non-profit umbrella body with expertise and resource to contain spills of this nature. In the meantime however, the area has been cordoned off and CNA is mobilizing additional resources to strengthen the containment effort.
Well killing assessment site visit has been carried out to evaluate the assets and earmark the resources required to bring the effusion under control.
The required apparatus including heavy duty and specialist equipment are presently being mobilized, locally and internationally, on a fast-track basis, to bring the well under control. For this purpose, Aiteo has on-boarded the involvement of the renowned, Boots & Coots, arguably the leading well control company in the world, working with a local resource.
Upon this intervention and conclusion, it is expected that the persistence of the leak alongside its functional consequences will be abated and significantly diminished.
Aiteo senior personnel have also visited the affected communities and made available, for the use of the communities, relief materials aimed at ameliorating the direct consequences of the incident.
The communities visited include Opu-Nembe Kingdom, where the Aiteo delegation was received by the King His Royal Majesty, Dr. Biobelemoye Josiah Ogbodo VIII, his council of chiefs and all sections of the society.
He noted in his remarks that “…we are happy that Aiteo has initiated this visit to support the community at this time and urge them to continue to work with us as partners in progress on its corporate goals in the community.”
The Aiteo Group CEO Mr. Benedict Peters has extended his assurances to the affected communities and, in his words, confirmed that “…we are doing everything in our power to contain this spill and ameliorate the situation as rapidly, safely and responsibly as possible. We have mobilized best-in-class resources and expertise to put this mishap behind us. Be rest assured of our resolve to limit the escape of oil and protect the ecosystem from its effects.”
Aiteo remains committed to ascertaining, immediately the well head is secure, the immediate and remote causes of the leak which will be driven by a JIV that will follow. Nevertheless, it is important that we affirm our preliminary view, based on our assessment of the proximate circumstances, that it will be difficult to exclude deliberate tampering of the well by oil thieves attempting to siphon crude directly from the well head. In our view, sabotage remains the most imminent cause of this incident.
Oil theft and asset vandalism continues to present the biggest challenge we face in the operations of oil and gas production in the Niger Delta area. It has continued to damage the production profile of oil producers in so many ways.
As we commend the relevant security agencies with whom we interface to combat this menace, we believe the need and capacity to provide significantly more remain overwhelmingly critical especially because there is so much more to be done to realign the architecture of the delivery infrastructure of oil and gas production in Nigeria in line with the current industry structure of multiple producers operating assets that were previously built and managed by one producer.
Aiteo feels deeply concerned on the occurrence of the incident at all. The circumstances and fortunes of the immediate community remains our most anxious consideration and, at this time, has assumed the highest priority, alongside making safe the well and its immediate environs. It is our fervent desire that in the attainment of this intensely challenging objective, the interests of the proximate community continue to be safeguarded in every material respect by the collective efforts of our company and all the industry professionals whose involvement Aiteo has convoked.