YENAGOA, Nigeria, Nov. 10 (Reuters) – Nigerian company Aiteo Eastern E&P reported an “extremely high order” oil spill from a condominium well in the Niger Delta and had to abandon immediate efforts to control the leak due to the pressure from the wellhead.
Local environmental group Environmental Rights Action said the latest spill in Bayelsa state was another incident that would devastate the marine ecosystem on which most fisheries depended.
The well, which is not in production, is jointly owned by Aiteo and state oil company NNPC.
The leak was discovered last Friday. Its cause remains to be determined, but Aiteo does not rule out crude oil leaks and sabotage.
Oil spills, sometimes due to vandalism or corrosion, are common in the Niger Delta, a vast labyrinth of creeks and mangroves crisscrossed by pipelines and ravaged by poverty, pollution, corruption and violence fueled by the oil.
“The magnitude of this incident is of an extremely high order. The immediate efforts to control the leak were aborted due to the high pressure emanating from the well head,” Aiteo said in a statement Tuesday evening.
In Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, the oil spills have had a catastrophic impact on communities where people have no other source of water than streams and depend on agriculture and the Peach.
Aiteo said he reported the incident to regulators and mobilized oversight specialists to shut down the leak.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of the Environment did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Whatever the cause of the incident, the owner of the facility should have shut it down and taken action to contain and clean up quickly,” said Alagoa Morris, Environmental Rights Action field manager in the Delta.
The well is among the assets that Aiteo bought from Royal Dutch Shell in 2015, company spokeswoman Ndiana Matthew said.
Oil companies in Nigeria have had problems trying to clean up the spills, sometimes due to obstruction and even violence from local gangs seeking greater payoffs or securing cleanup contracts.
Additional reporting by Camille Eboh in Abuja; Written by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Alison Williams and Emelia Sithole-Matarise
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