Oil Production Vessel Explodes off Nigerian Coast

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………it is the 2nd oil facility blow out since last November

An oil production ship belonging to Shebah Exploration & Production Company, has exploded off the coast of Nigeria. The company said in a statement that thought the vessel had 10 crew members, there were no casualties.

The explosion is what may prove to be the nation’s second major environmental setback in three months. Last November, a well operated by Aiteo Eastern E&P Company in Bayelsa blew, spewing oil and gas into the air and surrounding river for five weeks before it received effective attention.

A statement from Nigeria’s Shebah Exploration & Production Company Ltd (SEPCOL) yesterday said that flames had engulfed the Trinity Spirit floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel following the blast a day earlier.

“At this time there are no reported fatalities but we can confirm that there were 10 crewmen on board the vessel prior to the incident and we are prioritizing investigations with respect to their safety and security,”  SEPCOL chief executive officer Mr. Ikemefuna Okafor, said in the statement.

A comment by a close industry source active in Nigeria’s oil sector, that the vessel had about 50,000 barrels in storage but was not pumping crude from the Ukpokiti oilfield in the OML 108 block when it exploded, could not be confirmed at press time last time.

Reuters in Warri, Nigeria quoted one Joe Sunday, an assistant boat driver, who said he was in one of two speed boats out at sea on Wednesday morning to pick some crew who were due to take time off from work but could not reach the vessel because it was consumed by fire. “We drove round to see if we could see people but we did not see anybody and the fire was still blazing,” Sunday told Reuters at a port in Warri.

The medium also quoted Tiby Tea, chairman of Maritime Union for Nigerian Ports Authority in Warri, who confirmed that two boats sent out to the vessel could not find anyone.

The Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), which serves as the Nigerian regulator, revoked the production licence for OML 108 in 2019. Although the productive license was held by consortium, member Express Petroleum, SEPCOL is the technical operator of the block.

SEPCOL is said to be currently in receivership. There are concerns about when the Trinity Spirit vessel explosion will be remedied. Reuters recalled that BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig was pumping tens of thousands of barrels a day when it exploded in 2010.

By the time the well was plugged 87 days later, 4 million barrels of crude had flowed into the Gulf of Mexico causing an environmental disaster.

Nigeria industry regulator, the NUPRC, managed a response last night. “We got information of the fire incident yesterday and we immediately ordered our field officers to commence investigation. investigations are still ongoing,” said NUPRC’s chief executive officer, Gbenga Komolafe. “It is only after when we have received the report of this investigation from our team that we will issue a comprehensive statement devoid of speculation.”

It’s unclear how much crude was being held on the Trinity Spirit. Data published by the Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC) show no production from Shebah’s permit in 2020 or 2021. Meanwhile, eyewitnesses say the vessel was still on fire as Thursday morning.

Director-General of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) Idris Musa, said, “From the environment angle, we are putting in efforts to prevent damage beyond the current burning of the contents” of the ship, he said.

SEPCOL’s Okafor said investigations were underway to establish the cause of the explosion while attempts to contain the situation were being made with help from local communities and U.S. oil firm Chevron, which has a facility nearby.

By Chibisi Ohakah, Abuja

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