By Chinwendu Obienyi

The OML 29 Wellhead in the Santa Barbara South field in Nembe, Bayelsa State, which blew up on November 3 is being pumped with chemicals to contain further leakage in “one or two days.”

Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company (AEEPCO) which jointly owns the well with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), disclosed this, yessterday.

The firm’s Global Group Director/Coordinator Andrew Oru said the spill was of a special type – a gas blowout – which involved 80 per cent gas and 20 per cent oil.

During a media facility tour, which took both helicopter view and patrol boats along the waterways around the vicinity, it was easily observed that the oil spillage was minimal as it was effectively contained both by what is known as the booms contrary to the impression that the entire environment had been massively polluted.

Oru described as “spurious” claims that the leak spilled two million barrels of oil into the creeks.

“The talk of two million barrels of oil spilling from the well is spurious. Two million barrels is about two super tankers; the oil would have spread over the entire country. The reserve of the well itself is nowhere near two million barrels,” he said  in Opu-Nembe after taking journalists on a tour of the ground zero.

He assured the community that everything  was being done to prevent any humanitarian or ecological disaster.

“I can tell you authoritatively that the pressure of the well has been substantially diminished already, because all the chemicals that are needed to put the pressure under control are being fed in continuously and the pressure has started going down.

“This spill is a special type. It’s not just an oil spill, it’s a gas blowout, for whatever reason. There are two stages in containing it. The first one is to stop the gas leakage. The second is to fill the well. It is the gas leakage that engenders and creates room for some droplets of oil to escape with gas.

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“The well is a gas well, 80 per cent gas and about 20 per cent oil; that is why it is relatively easy for us to contain the amount of oil that spills out. Ordinarily, if what is coming out was oil, I can imagine that we’ll be needing Noah’s Ark by now.”

He noted that the heavy vegetation of the area by which oxygen is emitted in large quantities and which flows freely as well had also help to absorb gaseous emissions.

“But critically speaking, the pressure of the gas that is coming out has been almost completely extinguished and in one or two days maximum, I believe we will proceed further to begin the well kill process.”

A Well control specialist, Victor Ekpenyong working on the site of the Santa Barbara oil spill in Nembe, Bayelsa, has also  disputed two million barrels claim.

Ekpenyong stated that the well was last known to be producing about 700bpd of hydrocarbon fluid and would as of yesterday, had spilled an estimated volume of about 18,000bpd of hydrocarbon fluid to the environment as against the two million barrels of oil he said was wrongly reported.

He said Aiteo deserves commendation for being very active in containing the spill since it started, by immediately informing all regulatory agencies and stakeholders, mobilising containment resources (spill booms) to limit impact to the environment and carrying out a Joint Investigative Visit (JIV) to site with the appropriate authorities.

He commended the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva and Governor of Bayelsa state, Douye Diri, for finding time to visit the spill site and assessing the current situation as well as the management of Aiteo which he said immediately went to work.

Meanwhile, the company also donated five truckloads of palliative, including food and medical supplies to the Nembe Kingdom. The items, received by the community’s leaders, were stored in the Opu Nembe Town Hall for onward distribution to fishing communities directly affected by the spill included 10 cows, 500 bags of rice, 500 cartons of noodles, 500 cartons of water, 500 tubers of yam, 200 cartons of toilet rolls, 200 cartons of milk, 200 bags of garri, 200 cartons of tin tomatoes, 100 cartons of bevarages, 100 cartoons of vegetable oil, 100 Knorr season cubes, 100 bags of salt, 100 bags of Ariel soaps, Jerry cans of palm oil, six digital thermometers, four blood pressure machines, two sugar testing kits, 150 packs of Coartem for malaria, five packs of PCM, five carto.

Chairman of Opu-Nembe Council of Chiefs, Chief Ori Ango Ekpeleyai-Oruwari, who spoke on behalf of the Nembe monarch, said: “On behalf of the Amanayanbo of Opu-Nembe Kingdom, I receive these relief materials that are coming to our community for the second time. For those who are directly impacted in the oil spillage from OML 29 at Santa Barbara we are indeed very grateful to Aiteo for bringing this relief materials to us.”