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Upstream Regulatory Commission to explore provisions of PIA in tackling oil spills, says CEO

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THE Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) has assured on its commitment to tackle oil spills in Nigerian communities using the instrumentality of the Petroleum Industrial Act (Act)..

This assurance, the agency said, was in fulfillment of its regulatory mandate as enshrined in the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021, the Petroleum Act and the Petroleum (Drilling and Production) Regulations and Subsidiary Legislations.

The regulatory agency’s assurance follows  concerns trailing the oil spill incident of November 3, 2021, which occurred at the Santa Barbara Well 1 operated by AITEO Eastern Exploration and Production Company in Bassambiri, Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.

Chief Executive Officer of the regulatory agency Gbenga Komolafe said in a statement that  the commission would continue to monitor the site situation and guide the operator until the spill and its attendant problems were completely addressed.

He noted that the agency would implement all effective physical and engineering solutions to the incident, managing the safety of the response providers and people in the neighbouring communities while educating the general public on the site situation periodically.

He said, “It will ensure that the pressure from the well is stopped to put an end to the oil release, the already released oil is appropriately contained and skimmed off as it is being released. A joint investigation visit (JIV) is conducted as soon as it is safe to do so, and cleanup and restorative actions are done immediately after the spill is stopped and compensation paid to affected communities timeously and in accordance with the law.

“We appreciate the concerns raised in different quarters following the incident and wish to inform the general public and our stakeholders that the Commission has taken all necessary steps alongside the relevant stakeholders to ensure that the situation does not degenerate further.”

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Komolafe said that Clean Nigeria Associates (CNA) was also engaged to contain and recover the oil as well as manage and protect the immediate environment. The company has continually updated the NUPRC on site conditions and their steps, he explained.

While giving further insights, he said, “On receipt of reports of the incident by the Commission, our field operations team were promptly mobilised and are currently on ground for regulatory oversight assessment to determine probable cause(s) and to ensure all response actions are the most appropriate and effective to return normalcy in the shortest possible time.”

He further stated that apart from checking to confirm that the company was carrying out the necessary response measures to contain the situation, the commission had made its officials available to participate in containment procedures considered safe by the experts at the moment.

The initial spill report had been received and appropriately reviewed and documented while updates were received, he said.

“However crude oil and gas were seen gushing out from valves close to the top of the wellhead at high pressure but without any associated fire. The water surrounding the wellhead was polluted with oil. The affected well had been previously shut-in and therefore not producing at the time of incident.

“While the incident is to be treated with care and the location approached with caution by only those authorized to do so, the Commission wishes to reiterate that there is no cause for panic.

“This is because on a routine basis and under the supervision of relevant teams from the Commission, all petroleum companies are mandated to conduct drill exercises to adequately prepare for all eventualities.

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“Under this arrangement, such companies are required to document all necessary response actions in their Oil Spill Contingency Plan which is routinely and painstakingly reviewed by the Commission; and which is to be activated for response in emergency situations.”

Details of the regulatory requirements, he noted, were contained in the PIA 2021 and further enunciated in the EGASPIN 2018. These form the basis of the agency’s strategic focus to achieve zero incidences going forward, he said.

As part of our strategic plans for incident management, the operators have been mandated to activate Environmental Management Plans (EMP) which includes Environmental Compliance Monitoring (ECM) among other response actions.

The CEO noted that at the the end of the clean-up exercise, the commission would supervise all the operators to conduct Post Impact Assessment (PIA) studies to determine the far-reaching effects of the spills, with a view to restoring all impacted environment as near as possible to their pristine state.

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