Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company (AEEPCO), which operates OML 29 Wellhead at Santa Barbara South field in Nembe in Bayelsa State, jointly with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), has assured the people of commitment to their welfare.
The firm’s Global Group Director/Coordinator, Andrew Oru, explained that booms have been used as temporary floating barriers to contain marine spills, protect the environment and assist in recovery.
Explaining why it took days to stop the spill, Oru said the spill was of a special type – a gas blowout, which involved 80 per cent gas and 20 per cent oil. He noted that this contrasted with the impression being created that the entire environment had been seriously polluted.
He said the assertion that two million barrels of oil spilled was spurious. “The oil would have spread over the entire country. The reserve of the well itself is nowhere near two million barrels,” he said. He assured the community that all was being done to prevent any humanitarian or ecological disaster.
The company also donated five truck loads of palliatives, including food and medical supplies, to the Nembe Kingdom.
During a helicopter and tour of the ground zero – OML 29 Wellhead by The Guardian and other officials at the weekend, it was gathered that the spill, contrary to claims, had been largely contained. There were, however, traces of light oil along some of the waters, some distance from ground zero.
A well control specialist, Victor Ekpenyong, working on the site of the Santa Barbara oil spill, stressed that the claim that the magnitude of the oil spill in Nembe was worse than the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill with over two million barrels of oil spill, was an exaggeration as the well was last known to be producing about 700bpd of hydrocarbon fluid and would as of Thursday, had spilled an estimated volume of about 18,000bpd of hydrocarbon fluid into the environment.
During a boat ride along the creeks of the Santa Barbara River to the community, it was revealed that the spill was not as widespread as claimed. Also, the spill does not extend to Nembe town, a short distance from the wellhead.
The Chairman, Opu-Nembe Council of Chiefs, Chief Ori Ango Ekpeleyai-Oruwari, said the lives of the community should always be considered.
“Most of us are laymen; so we can only keep our fingers crossed to be adequately informed by experts working on it to bring us information on what led to the spill,” he said.