An oil production and storage vessel has exploded off the coast of Nigeria’s Delta state, raising fears of likely environmental hazards, as well as concerns about the fate of crew members on board the ship.
The Trinity Spirit, with its storage capacity of up to two million barrels of oil, was engulfed in flames with 10 crew members on board, according to Ikemefuna Okafor, chief executive of Shebah Exploration & Production Company Ltd (SEPCOL).
“At this time there are no reported fatalities, but we can confirm that there were 10 crewmen on board the vessel prior to the incident and we are prioritising investigations with respect to their safety and security,” Okafor said.
He also shared that investigations are currently underway to determine the cause of the explosion, while local communities and oil giant Chevron are aiding to contain the fire.
Concerns Over Oil Spillage
According to the oil production company and operators of the Trinity Spirit, the floating production, storage and offloading vessel can process up to 22,000 barrels of oil a day and had about 50,000 barrels in storage at the time of the explosion. This has triggered the fear of a possible major oil spill across the Niger Delta region.
This is Nigeria’s second major environmental disaster in just three months, after a huge oil spill from a disused, capped well released 20,000 barrels of oil a day for a month in Nembe, Bayelsa state.
“There will be a spill,” said Mike Karikpo of the local NGO, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria.
“This is a facility that handles over 20,000 barrels per day … the oil will reach the surrounding communities,” he added.
However, Nigeria’s regulatory agency for upstream operations, NUPRC, has assured that the commission would take necessary measures to ensure that lives and the environment are safeguarded.
Since the 1970s, the oil-rich Niger Delta region has accounted for an overwhelming majority of Nigeria’s income but has continued to suffer the multiplier effect of decades of environmental degradation, which has eroded livelihoods and deprived residents of essentials such as access to clean drinking water. The area’s mangroves and swamps have become uninhabitable for many species and the average human life expectancy is also 10 years lower in the Delta than elsewhere in Nigeria.