The oil spills from Seibou oil well operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in Bayelsa State has been traced to a ruptured and dilapidated pipeline.
A joint investigation visit (JIV) report on the incident obtained by SaharaReporters estimated that some 549 barrels of SPDC’s crude was discharged into Ogboinbiri River in Southern Ijaw local government area. The spill has affected several communities in the area.
The spill impacted 300,000 square meters of water surface, an area roughly the size of 42 football pitches, in Bayelsa State.
In a statement issued by its spokesperson, Joseph Obari, Shell said the leakage was reported on January 23, 2015, and that the company subsequently shut the facility 15 hours afterwards when it became safe to do so.
However, SaharaReporters discovered that Shell failed to report the incident on its own oil spills incident website even though the facts were available to the company.
Representatives of residents of affected communities as well as industry observers accused Shell of underreporting spills traced to equipment failures. They suggested that the company’s delinquency was a deliberate policy by Shell to evade payment of compensation to those affected by spillages. “But the company promptly reports and often exaggerates spills caused by sabotage,” one industry expert told SaharaReporters.
Under Nigerian laws, operators are exempt from payment of compensation for oil spills caused by sabotage.
The JIV team consisted of the Bayelsa State Commissioners of Environment, Mr. Iniruo Wills, Agriculture, Mr. Thomas Commander, officials of SPDC, and agents of the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA). Representatives of the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), an NGO, as well as members of affected communities were also part of the investigative visit.
A visual assessment of the underwater six-inch crude flow line by all the parties in the JIV team showed that the pipeline failed due to corrosion.
Hundreds of oil workers were deployed at the Seibou wellhead location in the channels of Ogboinbiri River to excavate the pipeline for inspection to unravel the cause of the spill.
Shell’s oil spill response team had used booms, (plastic materials) to cordon off the canal to ensure that any residual oil leak would be trapped and recovered.
Speaking during the joint visit, Mr. Wills, the Bayelsa Commissioner for Environment, noted that the state government had resolved to overhaul the entire spills and pollution response process.
“We have noted that the joint investigation procedure had not achieved the desired result and we are resolved to follow up the entire process in detail. Our technical staff have been so directed to be fully involved,” said the commissioner.
“Also we have taken steps to make the JIV process very transparent and integrate all the relevant stakeholders just to ensure that every party is represented,” Mr. Wills added.