The Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) has blamed the delay in responding to an August 2019 leak in its Taylor Creek oilfields at Kalaba Community in Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State on security concerns.
The community had accused Agip of operating in an environmentally unsustainable manner by leaving the site without remediation for close to one year.
But the oil firm explained on Wednesday that it responded within 24 hours after a pipeline blast by vandals at its Taylor Creek oilfields in August 2019 and shut the facility to curtail further degradation of the environment.
In the statement, Eni, the Italian parent company of NAOC, said delays in the Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) and fixing of the pipeline in May 2020 were caused by security concerns and not negligence on the part of NAOC.
Earlier reports said Agip had plugged the leak, but residents of the area said that the damaged point on the pipeline has continued to spew crude oil and gas into the community’s environment since July 30, 2019, when the line was blown up by unknown persons.
Idris Musa, Director-General of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) said personnel deployed on a JIV indicated that the vandal used explosives to destroy the pipeline.
“The spill was caused on a minor well flowline by a third-party interference, more specifically a blast by an explosive device occurred on August 3, 2019.
“Within 24 hours from receipt of the notification of an incident, the facility, both flowline and well were shut in and has remained closed since.
“The immediate action allowed to contain the volume of the spill, which amounts to 12 barrels. The area impacted by the spill falls mainly within the company’s right of way.
“The Joint Investigation Visit, which includes Company personnel, Government Regulatory Agencies, and Community representatives, was repeatedly postponed due to security challenges which prevented inspectors to visit the area.
“Only after a long engagement with the community, the investigators’ team was able to visit the area on May 31, 2020.
“NAOC restates that third-party interferences result in losses for the Company as well as significant damage for the environment and the communities.
“This is why the Company has developed an integrated strategy to prevent, reduce, contain and remediate these events and their impact, and will spare no effort to ensure asset and production integrity,” the statement read in part.
However, members of the oil firm’s host community had attributed the delays to the nonchalant attitude of the oil firm which compelled them to seek the intervention of the regulators.
Samuel Oburo, Chairman of Kalaba Community Development Committee (CDC), had said that NAOC was adamant, but mobilised to site toward the end of May due to intensive pressure by the community.
According to him, the community pressurised NAOC through petitions to NOSDRA, the Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment, and advocacy by the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN).