Investigations into the Jan. 16, 2021 oil spill around the Funiwa offshore facilities off the Bayelsa Atlantic coastline has taken regulators and environmentalists beyond Chevron’s facilities to nearby “Auntie Julie platform”.
The team, which had on Jan. 23 visited communities affected by the oil spill in Koluama in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, on Friday, Jan. 29, continued the process of tracing the source of the leakage.
They took samples from the polluted sites for laboratory analysis in a bid to arrive at an evidence-based conclusion.
Fishermen around the Atlantic Ocean coastline had on Jan. 17 sighted and reported an oil spill suspected to be from the Funiwa fields.
However, the operator of the nearby Funiwa field, Chevron, denied responsibility for the incident.
Incidentally, Chevron and Conoil Producing Limited also have operations near the spill incident location.
Idris Musa, Director-General of National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), had assured that the agency would deploy its personnel to the spill site to investigate the actual source and cause of the spill incident.
The investigating team, comprising officials of National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Bayelsa State Government officials and impacted communities, are visiting Conoil’s facility at Sangana waters in Bayelsa.
Mr Alagoa Morris, an environmentalist and Head of Field Operations, Environment Right Action, a civil society body who was part of the delegation, said the team was examining adjoining facilities to trace the source of the spill.
Morris said that the search beyond Chevron field followed denials by Chevron that the leak was from its facilities and none of the operators from the area has owned up.
He noted that the team beamed its searchlight following a reported leak at the Conoil field which was yet to be plugged to verify if the spillage polluting nearby communities had links with the facility.
Morris said the team was concerned over Conoil’s continued failure to appropriately respond to an undersea leak in its oilfield pipeline in the state, since Sept. 3, 2020.
NOSDRA’s DG had confirmed the incident at Conoil’s field on Dec. 2, 2020 and berated the company for operating in breach of regulatory guidelines.
Musa said that Conoil had the habit of causing avoidable spills and had previously been sanctioned for degrading the environment.
“This oil company has been spilling oil for a period of time now, from our findings, it is from an underwater pipeline under pressure creating bubbles on the water surface.
“All the directives given to it to contain the oil spill, shut down and replace the leaking pipeline, near the shore in Sangana, Bayelsa, fell on deaf ears.
“The agency sanctioned the company for this untoward act, but nothing has changed. The leakage continues and the oil company behaves irresponsibly even though it is a Nigerian oil firm,” Musa said.
According to information on Conoil’s website, the facility, a mobile offshore production unit commissioned in 1999, has the capacity to produce 80,000 barrels of crude oil daily.
Mr Abiodun Azeez, Media Relations Manager at Conoil, declined to respond to the allegations from NOSDRA.
All efforts to get the reaction of the oil firm by e-mail, short message services and telephone calls have remained unanswered.
By Nathan Nwakamma