Nigeria Halts Aiteo Operations in Bayelsa Spill Wells

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By Chibisi Ohakah, Abuja 

Finally, the Nigerian government has ordered the indigenous operator of Oil Mining Lease (OML) 29, AITEO Eastern Exploration and Production Company Ltd. (AEEPCo), to stop further operations at the Santa Barbara oil field in Bayelsa state, whence the company has been unable to stop a lingering oil spill.

The spill occurred on November 5, 2021 in a form of fountain on within the proximity of Opu Nembe Community at Well 1, Well Head located at the Southern Field of Sant Barbara. At the height of frustrations with the spill last week, the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) as well as Aiteo, both hinted that foreign assistance may be needed to manage the spill.

NOSDRA is the Nigerian federal government agency responsible for monitoring and responding to oil spills in Nigeria. It was established in 2006 to co-ordinate the implementation of the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP) for Nigeria.

A statement issued by the press director, federal ministry of environment, Saghir el Mohammed yesterday in Abuja, said Aiteo’s operations of OML 29 is hereby put on hold, ostensibly to enable foreign assistance to come in.

Mohammed said the Nigerian government has ordered that the company should not operate in the area until a proper investigation is carried out and adequate measures put in place to ensure the safety of lives and property.

“The Federal Government has directed the exploration company, AITEO Eastern Exploration and Production Company Limited (AEEPCo), to halt operations in the area until a proper investigation is carried out. Also, adequate measures will as well be put in place to ensure the safety of lives and property in the area.

“Upon receipt of the report of the incident, a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) comprising the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), was set up.

“Also, the state ministry of environment, community representatives, and Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company was set up on Nov. 6, 2021, to immediately address the situation.

“The exercise was inclusive because of inaccessibility to the wellhead location due to the hydrocarbon fumes that saturated the atmosphere in the area. Consequently, the JIT directed AEEPCo to shut down in the impacted asset (wellhead) for appropriate oil spilI response.

“Accordingly, AEEPCo deployed booms and skimmers to contain the spill crude oil from spreading. As of Nov. 10, 2021, efforts to shut the well have proven difficult due to inaccessibility,” Mohammed explained, adding that the CNA has mobilized to the site for enhanced containment and recovery.

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