By Mashe Umaru Gwamna
The Federal government has launched investigations into Ukopokiti oil field fire outbreak.
Minister of State for the Environment, Sharon Ikeazor has announced that the recent fire incident at Ukpokiti Oil Field, involving the Floating Production Storage and Offtake of Shebah Exploration and Production Company Limited (SEPCOL), has been ‘totally’ extinguished.
This was contained in a statement signed and issued by Director Press Federal Ministry of Environment,Saghir el Mohammed .
Ikeazor further assured that the National Oil Spill Detection Response Agency (NOSDRA), the scheduled agency under her ministry, will go for overflight today (Sunday) and Monday to monitor the situation of crude spill in the sea.
She noted that the overflight operation will be sustained in the weeks ahead, until whatever remnants of oil in the FPSO is evacuated and measures evolved to forestall a recurrence of such kind of incident.
Recalled that Ikeazor in a statement on Friday, assured that necessary efforts are being made to ensure the fire incident at Ukpokiti oil field is contained, after a fire engulfed a floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel named ‘Trinity Spirit’ in the early hours of Wednesday.
But in a recent update, Ikeazor said the fire incident at Ukpokiti Oil Field was eventually contained on the evening of Thursday, February 3, 2022.
She made this known after receiving an update from the Director General of NOSDRA, saying a ‘joint investigation’ operation was conducted at the incident area on Saturday.
She equally said NOSDRA had an overflight on the incident area last Friday, to ascertain from the air what the surrounding conditions were, after extinguishing the fire.
According to the Environment Minister, a joint investigation visit to the incident area, as well as the FPSO, was undertaken on Saturday by NOSDRA, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the Ondo State Ministry of Environment, Representatives of Communities proximate to the Area and staff of Shebah Exploration and Production Company Limited.
“While the cause of the fire incident is yet to be fully determined, the environment around the FPSO is only slightly covered by sheen and emulsified oil.
It was earlier reported that the approximate quantity of oil in the FPSO in the recent past was said to be a little less than 200 000 barrels. One of the operators utilizing the services provided by the FPSO was said to have made an Offtake of approximate 120,000 barrels before the incident; leaving an estimated 50-60 000 barrels in the FPSO as at the time of the fire incident.
“NOSDRA will continue to give updates on this incident after each aerial surveillance scheduled for today and Monday,” Ikeazor assured.
As the World Wetlands Day was celebrated on Wednesday, February 2, 2022 under the theme “People and Nature”, local communities and civil society in the Democratic Republic of Congo are calling upon the Congolese government to protect the Virunga National Park by halting oil exploration activities within the park.
The park, a UNESCO world heritage site, is home to unique flora and fauna including large colonies of hippos and around 200 of the critically endangered mountain gorillas.
They want the government to prioritise investments in renewable energy sources to promote the sustainable development of the local economy.
In a petition calling on President Felix Tshisekedi to immediately halt all oil development activities in Virunga, the local communities and civil society are advocating for a fossil-free Virunga, in a bid to avert the adverse effects on the communities and the environment.
Christian Hounkannou of 350Africa.org said: “We are asking the government of DRC to put people and nature first. Virunga National Park is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world. Oil exploration activities in the park and its surrounding areas could permanently damage the rich ecosystems and biodiversity of the area, and negatively impact hundreds of thousands of community members whose livelihoods depend on the park’s resources and activities.”
Pascal Mirindi of Extinction Rebellion said: “The Virunga National Park, if protected, would drive economic growth in the area and uplift local communities. The government should thus act in the interest of its citizens by protecting them and creating opportunities that safeguard the communities’ livelihoods and preserve the natural resources in the region. Access to clean energy is an integral part of sustainable development and commitments to mitigate climate change should be driving efforts to develop sources of renewable energy.”