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Tackling Oil Spill in Nigeria: Lessons from Bonga Field

Minister of  Petroleum, Mrs Dizeani  Allison Madueke

03 Jan 2012

Federal Government’s total dependence on Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCo) and its parent company, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, for the clean-up of the recent oil spill in Bonga deepwater oil field has exposed the weaknesses of Nigeria’s regulatory agencies – National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), in carrying out their statutory functions. Ejiofor Alike writes

Bonga Field Project

Nigeria’s oil industry witnessed a new chapter in November 2005, when Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCo) began crude oil and gas production from the Bonga deepwater oil field, 120 kilometres offshore Nigeria.

Royal Dutch Shell’s former Executive Director in charge of Exploration and Production, Mr. Malcolm Brinded, had noted that Bonga would target an increase of about 10 per cent in Nigeria’s oil production and about 25 per cent increase in Shell-operated production in the country.

“Bonga begins a new chapter in Nigeria’s oil and gas production, and an important contribution to new material oil production for Shell. The project targets an increase of around 10 per cent in Nigeria’s oil production and around a 25 per cent increase in Shell operated production in the country. Nigeria’s deepwater is a frontier growth opportunity for Shell and we have several recent discoveries offshore and a strong acreage position. Bonga is a highly valuable asset for Nigeria and for Shell, and the field is coming on-stream to meet demand at a time when energy prices are high,” he said.

Former Managing Director of SNEPCo, who championed the development of the field, Mr. Chima Ibeneche had noted that the company pioneered the advance into Nigeria’s deep-water frontier, leveraging Shell’s global expertise to discover and develop producible oil and gas.

“Bonga will deliver excellent value to the Government and people of Nigeria, co-venturers, and to the shareholders for many years to come. I would also like to stress that the first oil from deepwater offshore Nigeria would not have been possible without the highly qualified and dedicated staff that have been working on this complex and challenging project within Shell, partner companies, contractors and government,” he said

With a development cost to first oil of some $3.6 billion, Bonga’s target was to attain the nameplate production of 225,000 barrels of oil and 150 million standard cubic feet of gas per day.

Located in Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 212, the 60 square kilometres field is situated in water depths of more than 1000 metres.

Production facilities comprise one of the world’s largest Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessels and deepwater subsea infrastructure.

The field’s initial 16 subsea oil producing and water injection wells are connected to the two million barrel storage capacity FPSO by production flow lines, risers and control umbilicals. It was the first time inconel clad Steel Catenary Risers was used on an FPSO anywhere in the world. The Bonga concession was awarded in 1993 during the first round of bidding for the country’s deepwater frontier acreage.

It is operated by SNEPCo -55per cent, on behalf of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) under a Production Sharing Contract (PSC).

SNEPCo has a Joint Operating Agreement (JOA) with Esso – 20per cent; Nigerian Agip Exploration Limited (NAE) -12.5per cent and Elf Petroleum Nigeria Limited -12.5per cent.

Project Significance
Shell’s Bonga deepwater field was significant in a number of ways. The project was the first in the world where large steel catenary riser (SCR) was installed on an FPSO. Globally, Bonga project was also the first to use inconel cladding for a dynamic riser application.

The Bonga field also witnessed the first installation of a large diametre steel tube umbilical with bonded composite material cover as gas-lift risers.

These were arranged in dynamic catenary configuration, off a spread moored FPSO, and connected to the base of a steel catenary flow-line riser.

It was also the first, largest and most technologically advanced polyester moored deepwater buoy to be built in Nigeria.

The project also marks the first implementation of large size dynamic flexible pipe – 2.3km long; for oil transfer to a Single Point Mooring (SPM) offloading buoy.

Other the technological feats achieved with Bonga also include the fabrication and installation of the world’s largest deepwater Single Point Mooring Buoy at Nigerdock’s Snake Island yard in Lagos.

Samsung Heavy Industries constructed the 300,000 tonnes FPSO hull in South Korea while AMEC built and integrated the 22,000 tonnes oil processing topsides facilities. Stolt Offshore designed and built the gas export pipelines, the production flow lines, water injection lines and the risers that connect the sub-sea facilities to the FPSO.

SBM and Technip completed all the mooring and installation of the FPSO and SBM Loading Buoy together with the gas lift risers, well jumpers, control umbilicals, production manifolds, and subsea trees. Vetco Gray supplied the sub-sea wellheads, manifolds and control systems.

Militant Attack

Oil and gas production was first interrupted in Bonga in June 2008 when Shell shut down production from the offshore field, after members of the then most powerful militant group in the Niger Delta Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), fired at the facility during an unsuccessful attempt to destroy production infrastructure.

During the attack, an American oil worker, Capt. Jack Stone was captured on a supply vessel in the area by the militant group.

The incident shook the entire oil industry as it was surprising how the militants could penetrate an offshore facility, 65miles away from land.

MEND’s spokesman, Gbomo Jomo, claimed that the main computerised control room responsible for coordinating the entire crude oil export operations from the fields was the main target of the group.

“Our detonation engineers could not gain access to blow it up but decided against smoking out the occupants by burning down the facility to avoid loss of life. Our next planned attack on the oil field would be deadly. We therefore ask all workers in the Bonga field to evacuate for their safety as the military cannot protect them,” he said.

“The location for today’s attack was deliberately chosen to remove any notion that offshore oil exploration is far from our reach. The oil companies and their collaborators do not have any place to hide in conducting their nefarious activities. We use this opportunity to ask the oil majors to evacuate their expatriate staff from Nigeria until the issues in the Niger Delta have been addressed and resolved,” he added.

However, the attack was unsuccessful and after shutting down for few days as a precautionary measure, Shell resumed production in the field.

Maintenance Work
On February 28, 2011, production at Bonga field was again interrupted when SNEPCo shut the FPSO vessel for the first five- yearly mandatory turnaround maintenance.

As part of the efforts to ensure that the routine maintenance met global oil and gas standard, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) hired Lloyds as a consultant to certify the exercise.


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