Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Co. (AEEPCo) has reported a major spill in the Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
The indigenous company said there had been a spill from a non-producing well head in the Santa Barbara South field, in OML 29. Local reports suggest it is taking place at Juju Point, in a river.
A representative for the company, Ndiana Abasi-Matthew, said the spill was of an “extremely high order”. The official said it was not clear what the cause of the spill was or the volume of oil lost.
The company said it could not rule out theft or sabotage.
Containment booms have been deployed and the company is working on recovering the lost oil.
Aiteo has submitted a report to the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Nigerian Upstream Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) and National Petroleum Investment Services (NAPIMS) as is required by regulation.
NOSDRA noted the spill had taken place on November 5 and that a joint investigation visit occurred the following day.
The oil spill agency said the “continuous spraying of crude oil from the well head” prevented the team from determining the cause of the spill.
The regulator has instructed Aiteo to shut in the well so that another visit could take place. “Recovery of free phase oil was ongoing as at the time of this visit,” it said. NOSDRA also told Aiteo “to deploy more booms to contain the spilled crude oil”.
It went on to note that Aiteo had still not managed to shut the well in, as of November 10.
Aiteo noted that the “high pressure” that crude was coming out of the wellhead had prevented its investigations. “Aiteo has mobilised a full intervention team with well control specialists and equipment both locally and internationally to arrest the leak,” the company said.
Shell Petroleum Development Co. (SPDC) sold OML 29 and a stake in the Nembe Creek Trunk Line (NCTL) to Aiteo in 2015 for $1.7 billion. Aiteo has launched legal proceedings against Shell in the past over the sale.
Aiteo has also come under pressure from some local communities. Protestors occupied the Santa Barbara flow station in November 2020, with calls for the federal government to take over operations at the block.
Wood Mackenzie reports OML 29 has 11 oil and gas fields, of which four are producing.