Nigeria's foremost Online Energy News Platform

Aiteo, NOSDRA Bicker Over Nembe Oil Well Fire

-By Gideon Osaka

Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company (AEEPCo) and the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, (NOSDRA) are at each other’s throat over the recent Nembe creek oil well fire outbreak.

While NOSDRA had accused Aiteo of frustrating efforts to investigate the fire incident, Aiteo stated that NOSDRA’s assertions seem inconsistent with available evidence and suggests ‘either a communication gap within the organisation or an inexplainable fabrication.” Nembe is in Bayelsa State.

According to Francis Umeh, Head of NOSDRA’s Field Office in Bayelsa “the stance of Aiteo was hampering NOSDRA from promptly carrying out its statutory mandate”. Umeh also accused Aiteo of not reporting the oil well explosion within 24 hours of occurrence as stipulated by law. “The incident occurred on Friday and it took them some time to report it officially to NOSDRA; we have plans to visit the site, but the operator is resisting and frustrating our efforts,” Umeh had said.

However, Aiteo, in its reaction, explained that it had notified NOSDRA of the fire incident within the time stipulated by law.” In a statement made available to pressmen, Aiteo said, “Contrary to some reports, AEEPCo notified NOSDRA of the fire at its oil well in Nembe, Bayelsa State on March 1. Recall that on March 2, 2019, it was erroneously announced that scores of people were missing after an explosion occurred along the Nembe Creek Trunk Line, NCTL, the major crude oil pipeline traversing the Nembe area. Aiteo is the operator of the NCTL as well as the Oil Mining Lease (OML) 29.

Mr. Peter Udabor, NOSDRA DG

“Further details on the incident from the affected area as well as statements from Aiteo and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, have cleared that it was not a pipeline explosion but a fire at a nearby oil well. Also, there was no casualty from the incident. This was corroborated by community people who later confirmed that there were no missing individuals.” Aiteo also explained that it had contacted the relevant agencies, including NOSDRA on the matter through a document referenced AEEPCo/PRD/2019/05 and signed by its Chief Operating Officer, Emmanuel Ukegbu. The letter, Aiteo said, read thus, “At the early hour of today 01/03/19, we received a report from the Mile 1 Community of a suspected explosion at Nembe Creek Well-7, following which, our Operation ER Team was triggered. Preliminary investigation suspects a possible explosion that resulted into fire at about 01.00 hours in the vicinity of Nembe Creek Well-7. By 01:30 hrs, the fire has tapered down. “It is important to note that prior to this fire incident, all facilities were shut-in due to NCTL outage about 17.00 hrs on 28/02/19. We are continuing with investigations and further information will be communicated.”

Following the reports by media that scores of persons lost their lives while others were missing in Nembe community, after the gas explosion, the company has assured that no life was lost in the Friday explosion on the crude export pipeline which burned till Saturday.

According to Aiteo’s Public Relations Manager, Ndiana-Abasi Mathew, “There is no official statement at the moment but I can gladly inform you that the fire has been contained and no lives were lost,” he said

Also reacting to the report, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said it has no record of pipeline explosion in the region.

The Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division of the corporation, Ndu Ughamadu, in an interview with pressmen in Abuja, on Saturday, dissociated the corporation from the incident.

”It is not our pipeline, it is Aiteo that was mentioned, which ordinarily they are supposed to be on joint venture with NNPC.

“I have cross-checked with our downstream unit that manages our pipeline and they said that they didn’t have such records,” he said.

The Nembe Creek Trunk Line explosion, with a capacity of conveying 150,000 barrels of crude daily to the Bonny oil export terminal, will adversely affect crude export, having been put out of use.

It was learnt that the oil export line was shut for emergency repairs following a leak when the incident occurred and discharged residual crude and gas trapped in the pipeline.