A production vessel offshore Nigeria appears to have been gutted in a fire that broke out overnight.
Shebah Exploration and Production Co. said there had been an “unfortunate incident” on the Trinity Spirit floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel. A fire had engulfed the vessel following an explosion just before 1 am.
Shebah said it was exploring the cause of the explosion and that it was working with various parties to handle the problem. Complicating issues, the company is in receivership and has a number of legal challenges.
The company said there were no fatalities. It did note that there were 10 men on board the vessel before the incident. Shebah is “prioritising investigations with respect to their safety and security”, it said.
Local reports, though, have suggested there were a number of deaths. Video on social media shows a number of men in life jackets escaping in a boat.
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The Trinity Spirit is located on OML 108. Conoco had held a 40% stake in the block but it transferred this interest to Shebah in 2004. The block holds the Ukpokiti field and a number of other discoveries.
The FPSO has 22,000 barrels per day of capacity and the ability to store 2 million barrels, Shebah has said. It is not clear how much the field was producing at the time of the explosion. According to government statistics, output from the Ukpokiti field in 2021 was zero.
Shebah’s statement went on to express thanks to the Clean Nigeria Associates, Chevron’s local team at Escravos and community stakeholders, including fishermen.
It has informed the authorities, Shebah said. It asked for members of the public to stay away from the area while the investigation continues.
Shebah had been in financial difficulties for some time. In 2020, reports emerged that the upstream regulator was working to strip the company of OML 108.
Seplat Energy non-executive chairman ABC Orjiako is involved in Shebah. He provided a personal guarantee to the company’s borrowings.
In October 2021, Zenith Bank took out a mareva injunction ordering Seplat and others not to deal in the assets of – or transfer funds – belong to Shebah and Orjiako. There was no impact on Seplat.
Zenith had been involved in a financing plan for Shebah in 2014. This fell apart in 2016 when a London High Court ruling ordered Shebah to pay back a previous debt.
Comments on social media suggest the vessel was in a poor state of repair.
Updated at 10:42 am with background on Shebah’s finances.