The Bonga field also became a topical issue in the oil industry recently when SNEPCo confirmed that it had shut down the facility in response to an oil leak at the facility.
Significantly, it was a major setback to Nigeria’s crude oil export as crude oil production; excluding condensates had hovered around 2.4million barrels per day before the 200,000barrels of crude oil per day facility was shut down.
The leak occurred on Tuesday, December 20, 2011, during a routine operation to transfer crude oil from Bonga’s FPSO vessel to a waiting oil tanker.
“An export line linking the FPSO to the tanker has been identified as the likely source, and has been closed and de-pressurised, halting the flow of oil. Early indications show that less than 40,000 barrels of oil have leaked in total. SNEPCo is now in the process of safely shutting down production at the Bonga field as a precautionary measure,” Shell’s spokesman, Tony Okonedo said.
Commenting on the incident in his capacity as the Chairman of Shell Companies in Nigeria, the Managing Director of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Mr. Mutiu Sunmonu, said the company’s focus was on a speedy and effective clean-up of the environment.
“We are sorry this leak has happened. As soon as we became aware of it, we stopped the flow of oil and mobilised our own resources, as well as industry expertise, to ensure its effects are minimised. It is important to stress that this was not a well control incident of any sort, and to make clear that no-one has been injured. Our focus now is on a speedy and effective clean-up,” he said.
Mutiu noted that the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), and the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency had been notified of the incident.
“SNEPCo’s Oil Spill Response Procedure and Emergency Response Team have been activated to manage the situation,” he added.
SNEPCo resumed crude oil production at the oil field in April, after six weeks of maintenance of the FPSO vessel.
During a recent tour of Bonga Field, the Offshore Installation Manager, Mr. Cliff Pain, told THISDAY that the spill was caused by a leak at one of the three bottom export risers at 36kilometres of water depth.
He stated that immediately the spill was noticed on December 20, 2011, he shut down production at the facility and informed all relevant agencies, seven minutes later.
Pain stated that the leak occurred between the FPSO and the SPM, which is used to hold the export tanker.
He noted that on December 22, about 900 square kilometres of the sea was affected but as the area was getting wider, the spill was getting thinner.
About 20,000litres of dispersants were deployed in the vessels as at December 23, while the oil was dissipating away, breaking up and also getting thinner.
As at December 24, the spill had been biodegraded with Bacteria in the ocean eating up the sheens.
“On December 25, third –party spill manifested at the shoreline. Oil from the Bonga did not hit the shoreline but was stopped at about 12 nautical miles (18kilometres) from the coast on December 21,” Pain explained.
On December 26, after about 40,000 barrels of crude oil had leaked SNEPCo confirmed that the leak had largely dispersed.
This came after the Minister of Environment, Hajia Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafia, had stated that the clean-up of the environment, which was undertaken by various local and international experts, would be completed within the next six weeks.
Mailafia spoke with journalists in Lagos after she led the Director-General of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, Mr. Peter Idabor and the Deputy Director in charge of Safety at the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Capt. Warredi Enisuoh, to inspect the deep offshore facility.
But Sunmonu stated that “SNEPCo’s robust response and the natural weathering process, has helped bring a swift end to this incident”.
“Since the leak, teams from SNEPCo have worked around the clock with international oil spill experts, using a combination of dispersants and booms to tackle the leaked oil. SNEPCo will continue to monitor the area, including using radar satellite, and take appropriate steps to disperse any further persistent oil sheens,” he said.
“I am very sorry the leak from Bonga happened in the first place, but am now happy to confirm the oil has dispersed. This could not have been done without the support of local and national government officials, who enabled our teams to mobilise quickly and start to tackle the oil almost immediately. I also want to thank the teams that worked day and night to clean up the oil for their tireless efforts, and the communities along the western Delta shoreline for their support and understanding over recent days.”
SNEPCO had earlier stated that an investigation by a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), and analysis based on combination of satellite pictures, photos from aerial surveillance, infra-red cameras and direct observations from vessels had indicated that the oil leak from the Bonga offshore facility remains offshore and is thinning and breaking up.
The company also deployed two aircrafts to support the five ships deployed to apply dispersant and maintain constant surveillance.