Flooding has become a perennial problem in the world affecting lives, properties and economic activities. These flooding problems have a direct impact on the oil and gas industry leading to a decline in production and revenue generation.
Onshore flooding creates emergency situations resulting in the shutting down of production facilities and evacuation of staff as floods cut off access roads and hamper the operation of electrically driven equipment.
For instance, in 2022 the Nigeria Liquefied and Natural Gas company declared force majeure due to widespread flooding that disrupted supply from the upstream suppliers.
The Punch newspaper quoted a spokesperson of the NLNG saying that, “The notice by the gas suppliers was a result of high floodwater levels in their operational areas, leading to a shut-in of gas production which has caused significant disruption of gas supply to NLNG’’ (Punch 18 Oct., 2022).
This explains the negative impact of flood, not only on the government and companies but on the global community that depends on this source of energy. For a country like Nigeria that heavily relies on fossil fuels, not only for energy needs but also for its foreign exchange, shutting down production for a few days has dire fiscal consequences.
But more than that these flood disasters affect onshore Oil and Gas workers in several ways:
First, floods increase the risk of accidents and even death when they occur.
Water levels may get to some exposed electrical cable terminations (especially underground and other facility cables).
Thus, personnel may be in danger of electrocution as water is a conductor of electricity. Again, there is the danger of workers sustaining minor or serious injuries through slipping and falling, tripping on submerged equipment or debris.
Sometimes, personnel can be trapped in hazardous situations by rapidly rising water volumes. A worker may even be carried off by fast flowing water which may prove fatal.
Floods can also pose health risks to onshore workers because floodwaters often contain hazardous waste, toxins or pathogenic organisms.
It is common to find in floodwater bacteria, chemicals and sewage gathered from different sources as the water levels rise and the water flows over distances.
Workers who get exposed to such floodwaters, or for any reason ingest the contaminated water may develop skin disease, respiratory or gastrointestinal infections among other health problems.
Floods often cause short- or long-term closure (depending on how long the problem persists) of oil and gas production facilities. This may result in temporary work stoppage and in some extreme cases layoffs, with attendant financial implications for the affected workers and their dependants.
Such closures equally affect the revenue generation of the companies and the government.
The host communities of Oil and gas production are equally affected when floods occur.
It is obvious that floods generally cause destruction to affected communities such as destruction of infrastructure, contamination of sources of water and displacement of victims due to submersion or collapse of houses, hospitals and schools.
But there is a special way that floods affect host communities of Oil and Gas production.
Floods in Oil and Gas producing communities visit damage or destruction on Oil and Gas facilities such as flow lines and storage tanks.
As floodwaters intensify, they expose underground pipes and may cause some pipes to shift, resulting in ruptures and Oil leaks. A 2013 flood in Colorado caused the spilling of approximately 43,134 gallons of oil (that is 1,027 barrels), and 26,385 gallons of produced water (that is water that is brought out during oil production).
Such a great environmental disaster affects surrounding communities and may cost the companies huge amounts of money to clean up.
Apart from the health hazards these leaks pose to the surrounding communities, flood-caused leaks can also endanger the livelihood of the host communities, especially in Nigeria where Oil and Gas host communities are basically agrarian.
The floodwaters eventually carry the pollutants and chemicals from the Oil and Gas facilities into rivers, streams and underground water. This destroys the ecosystem (aquatic life, flora and fauna), and leaves the land devastated and unfit for agricultural purposes. The effects of floods on the environment vis-a-vis the oil and gas production are evidently adverse.
It is imperative that Oil and Gas companies put in place measures that ensure the safety of their personnel and reduce the impact of floods on the host communities.
This means, emergency response services and early warning systems must be put in place, and both workers and community members educated on the appropriate safety measures to take in such emergencies.
It is pertinent to add that where Oil and Gas companies have to close or offer reduced services as a result of such disasters, their workers should receive due compensation within the period of closure.
It is also necessary for Oil and Gas companies to improve the resilience of their infrastructure in other to reduce the hazards that their collapse may bring during disasters. A permanent solution to this problem, however, is for the government to dredge the rivers Niger and Benue.
This will reduce the perennial flood problem not only in the oil producing communities but also in several states of the federation. The Ecological Fund set up by the government to address multifarious ecological problems has not been able to adequately and substantially fix the flood problem anywhere in Nigeria due largely to corruption and mismanagement.
With the level of destruction and economic disruptions caused by the floods in Nigeria in 2022, it is important for the government to tackle the flood problem headlong to avoid or reduce the impact of future occurrences.
Government at all levels should have plans to prepare, curtail, mitigate the negative effects of natural occurrences like flooding that happen seasonally in our clime in other to ensure the protection of lives, property and critical national infrastructures and the infrastructures of businesses that pay taxes to national and sub – national governments.
.Olayinka is a highly motivated Oil and Gas Engineer with vast experience working for major operators in the oil and gas sector. He is sound in field development planning, stakeholder engagement, project management, reservoir characterisation. He works with one of the oil and gas majors.