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Vanguard: We lack access to quench oil well fire in Ogoni— Shell

By Hector Igbikiowubo
Posted to the Web: Wednesday, January 10, 2007

LAGOS —The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC), claims it has been denied access to the site of the Bomu wells 41 and 51 fires in Ogoni land allegedly over the company’s refusal to acquiesce to monetary demands from community representatives.

This was contained in a statement released by the company yesterday in Lagos, adding that the development has frustrated efforts at putting out the fire.

The company said on Monday, January 8, 2007, the site team was again mobilized to the Gokana Divisional Police Headquarters near the site of the fire.

A new twist was however added, when the community representatives, insisted on large monetary payments as condition for granting access for the fires to be put out. SPDC immediately sought the intervention of the Rivers State Government.

“We wish to point out the many consequences of delayed action. First, continuing fire on the well head will compromise the Well Control equipment that is installed on the wells, and lead to total loss of control of the wells. Second, there is limited experience in the industry in regaining control of two wells (10 feet apart) in a simultaneous blow-out situation. Third, in the event of a blow-out, there will be serious environmental damage and risk of injury or death to people within the area,” the statement disclosed.

The management recalled that on Wednesday, January 3, 2007 it received a report of the fires, and immediately sent formal reports of the incident to all regulatory authorities.
“A Joint Investigation Team (comprising government officials, community representatives, and SPDC officials) and fire fighters were mobilised to visit the site the next day to undertake investigations and put out the fire. We were however advised by the Gokana LG Chairman not to go to the site since that day was the Ogoni Day celebrations,” the company disclosed.

Subsequently, discussions were held between the company representatives and the Local Council Chairman and community leaders on Friday, January 5th towards securing access to the wellheads.
“This was achieved late, and plans were then made to put out the fires the next day. On Saturday, SPDC’s well control and fire fighting teams, as well as the Joint Investigation Team were mobilised to site, but could not immediately put out the fire due to technical reasons.

The JIT and other teams were re-mobilised on Sunday, January 7, 2007, but neither the Gokana Council Chairman, nor chiefs could guarantee safe access to the well site. We however received assurances from community leaders that work could re-start the next day.”This arrangements were however scuttled by the demands for monetary payments before access could be granted.
It was disclosed that engagements however continued yesterday January 9, 2007 at all levels between SPDC and Rivers State Government to ensure that access issues are resolved urgently to enable us put out the fire.

“The site team has been re-mobilised, and is on standby at the Gokana Divisional Police Headquarters.
SPDC reiterated its appeal to the communities involved to appreciate the gravity of the implications of not putting out the fire immediately to the people and the environment if the fire is not put out immediately.

The leadership of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People could not be reached for a reaction at the time of filling this reportManagement.
   

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