The Management of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) started the clean up of crude oil from a leak at its Kolo Creek Manifold in Bayelsa this weekend.
According to Shell, the leak within the Kolo Creek oil field only discharged 27 barrels of Shell’s crude blend into the environment on April 15, 2015.
However a site visit by SaharaReporters on Sunday indicated that several 500 gallon capacity drums deployed have been filled ready to be convoyed the oil firm’s processing facility for recycling.
The amount of crude recovered in this time frame suggests that the 27 barrels declared by the oil firm is just a tip of the iceberg.
The SaharaReporters correspondent visiting the spill site observed several remaining pools needing to be cleaned by Shell.
A Joint Investigative Visit (JIV) conducted by officials of SPDC, the Bayelsa Ministry of Environment, as well as community representatives and oil industry regulators on April 16, concluded that the spill was caused by sabotage.
A statement from SPDC’s Spokesman Joseph Obari affirmed that the spill was caused by sabotage, even as community representatives claimed that it was operations negligence by Shell because they allowed a third party into the oil facility.
“Report of the Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) at the Kolo Creek Manifold spill, which occurred on April 15, 2015, has attributed the leak to sabotage of the facility” the Shell statement read.
Shell continued by claiming “the investigation team, which visited the site on April 16, found that unknown persons had cut out a section of the metal protection to the manifold, removed components from the pressure control system, and opened the isolation valves.”
“It resulted to a spill. The volume of spilled oil was estimated at 27 barrels, affecting mainly the manifold grounds and part of the surrounding vegetation,” the statement read in part.
Representatives of the community and officials of SPDC held divergent views over the cause of the spill during the JIV, a development that led to frayed nerves and subsequent hurried conclusion of the JIV, without visiting all the impacted sites.
A community representative who participated in the JIV told Sahara Reporters that the community disagrees with the sabotage theory often canvassed by the oil firm to evade liability and insisted that the spill incident was a fall out of negligence by surveillance staff of the oil firm.
“We are not accepting the theory of sabotage at all, that facility is a restricted area and well fortified, we believe that it is the responsibility of Shell to protect their facility and if they are negligent on this they should be held liable.
“Sabotage cannot be used to cover up the negligence of the oil firm, we do believe it is negligence and not sabotage.
“The spill had wrecked havoc and destroyed surrounding farmlands and plantain plantations in the community, we must resolve who bears responsibility for all these before clean up can start,” the source said.
Bayelsa Commissioner of Environment Mr. Iniruo Wills visited the spill site before the JIV on April 15 with officials of the ministry and civil society organizations for an on–the-spot assessment attributed the spill to operational failure on the side of the oil firm.
“We can no longer accept the sabotage theory which has never been proven in any incident, it is rather a failure on the part of the operator to safeguard their facility and it is a big blow to the operational system put in place by the companies.
“The government and regulators will henceforth compel the oil firms to take responsibility for their lapses rather than hide under the cover of technicality to cover up. This is fraudulent,” Willis said.
Sahara Reporters also gathered that several banana and plantain foundations, farmlands, and fish ponds impacted by the incident were neither visited nor assessed by the JIV team.