UPDATE: Bonga Oil Spill Contained, but Shell Struggles With Third Party Spills

Channels Television  
Updated December 27, 2011
Bonga Oil Spill

To prove it to the press and the Nigerian public, the company flew a group of international and Nigerian Journalists to the site of the spill, 120km off the Nigerian coast “to see for themselves how the oil that leaked from SNEPCo’s Bonga facility has largely dispersed”.

Shell said in a recent statement that it was already hard at work using dispersants to break up the oil and clean up the spill and said it “will continue to monitor the area, including using a radar satellite, and take appropriate steps to disperse any further persistent oil sheens”.

The company is still investigating how the spill of less than 40,000 barrels of oil – the equivalent of 1.68 million gallons – had occurred.

A manager of the Bonga oilfields, Cliff Pain, told the press that the spill had occurred a week ago during a routine operation transferring oil from Bonga’s floating production storage and off-take (FPSO) vessel to an oil tanker.

Pain said there had been a break in a flexible line about 360m out from the FPSO vessel transferring oil to waiting tankers, but confidently assured “we can undeniably say we traced our oil… and stopped it.”

In addition to seeing how the oil from Bonga has largely dispersed, the journalists were taken by helicopter to see the oilfield, which is controlled from a large ship not a stationary rig – and sits about 120km off Nigeria’s coast.

Shell Nigeria’s Chair Mutiu Sonmonu said the limited spill, weather and open ocean helped in containing the spill, however he said new spills from different sources have hampered Shell’s clean up.

In the statement released by Shell, Sonmonu said: “It’s important for the media, and the public, to see not only the results of our successful efforts to tackle the leak from Bonga, but also how third party activity has made the operation more challenging.

Channels Television energy correspondent Olu Phillips, who was on the site said the company, using satellite imagery, was able to differentiate between oil from their Bonga facility and oil from other sources. However, Phillips added that they were cleaning up the spill anyway.

Sonmonu said in a statement that “as a prudent corporate citizen, SNEPCo will tackle all the oil its teams can see offshore or which has come onshore in this area, including oil spilled by third parties.”

He added that “all necessary measures will be taken to protect the coastline, wildlife and the communities that live there, and where necessary to clean onshore areas, stating that Shell did not believe “any of the oil from Bonga has reached the shore.”