By Victor Okoronkwo
Efforts to cap the leaking wellhead in the Santa Barbara South field, in Nembe have received a boost with the deployment of heavy equipment, including two 1000 metric tonnes (mt) ramps, by Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company (AEEPCO) .
The ramps which sailed to the ground zero in Nembe Local Government Area (LGA) of Bayelsa State on Wednesday, are expected to boost ongoing containment exercises, with booms and environmental barges already mopping up spilled crude Oil.
The firm disclosed this in a statement by the Group Managing Director (GMD) Aiteo Eastern E & P Company Ltd, Mr Victor Okoronkwo. He emphasised that there was currently no fire at or within the vicinity of the well, while Environmental Impact Assessment in vicinity of the area is in planning phase with a DPR / NOSDRA accredited firm.
The statement followed the visit of Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva and other dignitaries to take stock of the situation at ground zero on November 24.
The wellhead in the Santa Barbara South field blew up on November 5, spewing oil into the water bodies. The Wellhead is jointly owned by AEEPCO and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
During the visit, Silva had detailed discussions with the Aiteo intervention team on ground, led by its Chief Operations Officer, Ewarezi Useh who briefed him on the pre-kill well assessment by Boots & Coots company.
Useh assured the minister that the well would be secured within 48 hours of the visit.
Thereafter, the minister had a town hall meeting with the Opu-Nembe Kingdom where he and other leaders of regulatory agencies had interactive session with the people.
Aiteo assured them that the “containment exercise continues, with booms and environmental barges mopping up spilled crude.
“All relevant personnel and experts, local and international are now on location. The marine spread carrying the pumps, chemicals, cranes and firefighting equipment are 100 per cent mobilised and have started sail to location.”
He said the crew did a night stop on Thursday at KM45 and took off again first light Friday morning with ETA 12noon on site
The statement added: that”A 2 x 1000MT Ramp barge containing simulation equipment for the well kill had also sailed While sailing, concurrent activities are ongoing on the barges to minimise clean up downtime, (spotting and hook up of the hoses).
“At SBAS-1 the well control package was transferred onto the well platform and the crew carried out an inspection with the Xmas tree and identified THS (tubing Head Spool) to be 2-1/16”.
The company said it commenced RU (rig up) but could not finish due to bad weather. It explained that forward plan was to complete RU and install well control package to arrest the flow.
Aiteo explained further that in preparation for “well kill” the 1000 Ramp barge containing all pumping and simulation equipment for the well kill was approaching Santa Barbra “as per latest report received
The loading of additional equipment being mobilised from Snake Island was underway and expected to arrive staging area in Santa Barbra by noon Friday.
Aitoe further explained that the affected communities were being carried along.
The statement added: that “Relief materials, viz. mosquito net, hygiene and sanitary kits, disinfectants, food materials, are being mobilised to the immediate communities impacted by the spill.
“Aiteo Officials are closely monitoring all activities related to the affected communities, viz. feeding, lighting, hygiene, drinking water and medical requirements with the help of local associations.
“Aiteo Safety and security and HSE teams are monitoring the quality of air every six hours to ascertain the livability of the areas adjoining ground zero.
“Aiteo is mobilizing additional relief materials for the affected communities.