There are about 603 fields in the Niger Delta. Over 55 per cent of these are onshore, while the remaining is in the shallow waters (less than 500 metres). Of these fields, 193 are currently producing while 23 have either been closed down or abandoned. Across the Niger Delta, abandoned drill locations (including well stubs) numbering well over several tens of thousands.
A large number of exploratory wells were drilled on land, swamp and offshore locations. The practice then was the use of Water Based Mud (WBM) and bigger holes. At the land sites, earth materials were borrowed from offsite locations to the drill sites for civil work construction. Large borrow pits were created as a result.
Improperly abandoned oil wells, improperly abandoned facilities, and abandoned oil sumps are all potential sources of safety hazards. Prior to current abandonment procedures, oil wells were cut off below ground and capped. However, this procedure may not comply with the current abandonment standards.
This information is intended to encourage investigation of oil operating companies to ascertain compliance to industry standards and procedures in respect of abandoned/ suspended oil wells in Rivers, Bayelsa, Ondo, Edo, Akwa Ibom states and Niger Delta Region in general. Our objectives include:
§ To safeguard human health, safety and environment.
§ To ensure that the abandoned oil wells are properly abandoned to comply with the industry standards and best practice.
§ To guide against the potential consequences of abandoned oil wells failure and the resultant incidents.
§ To ensure compliance with industry standard procedures.
§ To ensure oil operating companies create a resource data base for their abandoned oil wells in Niger Delta Region.
CONCERN TO COMMUNITIES
§ Most of the oil wells were probably abandoned without proper evacuation procedures.
§ Some of the abandoned oil wells might be poorly plugged and could lead to disaster if failure occurs.
§ Poorly plugged abandoned oil wells could blow up without warning.
§ Nonchalant attitude might have been exhibited during the plug back of the wells without compliance with acceptable safety standards.
§ Gradual failure could result if the abandoned oil wells were not properly plugged over time.
§ Some abandoned land oil wells are not secured with parameter fence and are exposed to human trespass and interaction.
§ Poor education and lack of awareness of the community people of the dangers of abandoned oil wells.
§ Security problems that may arise should there be incident due to failures.
SOME ABANDONED OIL WELLS IN NIGER DELTA OF RIVERS AND BAYELSA STATE
§ 14 Oil wells Ogoni land, SPDC
§ 2 Oil wells at Afam, Oyigbo LGA, SPDC
§ 2 Oil wells at Egberu, Oyigbo LGA, SPDC
§ 3 Oil wells at Kuruma Tai, Tai LGA, SPDC
§ 6 Oil Wells at Tua-Tua, Tai LGA, SPDC
§ 3 Oil wells at Idu- Obosiukwu, ONELGA, ELF
§ 2 Oil wells at Idu- Osobile, ONELGA, NAOC
The above areas where oil well heads have been improperly abandoned depends on the geological foundation of the area, else this can also be a quick time bomb that may brew crisis in the region.
DANGERS OF ABANDONED OIL WELLS
Abandoned oil wells are dangerous because very few of them are really properly capped or retired. Most of these oil wells were not probably abandoned with proper evacuation procedures and very few of them ever get checked after abandonment. So pressure that builds up from gases in the earth and shifting earthquakes can cause oil and gas to come back to the surface, even on an oil well that had been capped. This causes spills and emissions that could harm air, land and water body.
Improperly capped wells have the potential to leak methane gas which poses an explosion hazard. There is a danger that leaking gas combined with the oil could create an inferno. There is the potential incident of spillage or blowout resulting to disaster. Apart from threatening aquatic lives, spills could lead to destruction of natural vegetation and flora as well as the soil.
The effect on human health and community environment cannot be over emphasized. There is also the cost effect of payment of compensations and resettlement of the human inhabitants where necessary. It is therefore necessary to secure these wells and other facilities to comply with the industry standards and best practice to guide against the potential consequences of their failures, which our community is already prone to.
ABANDONED OIL WELLSI NCIDENTS IN RIVERS STATE
§ Bodo-West Oilfield spillage.
§ Yula oilfield, spillage
§ Bomu oilfield fire incident
§ Afam, oil well fire incident.
OIL WELL ABANDONMENT
Apart from the human and environmental threat of Gas Flaring in the region; justice haven been denied, the issues of proper decommissioning of dry Oil-Wells have not be given sufficient attention, and international legislation guiding proper Abandonments, Decommissioning, remediation, reclamation and consolidation has not be adhered to strictly. In a layman terms, it means that several flow stations such as prominent in Diebu Creek Flow Stations , dry oil wells were not properly decommissioned and land reclaimed for arable and aquatic uses as seen and practiced in the developed countries of the world such as the United State of America (USA), UK, Germany, France etc.
In an interview conducted by The Foundation of Ijaw Liaison Legacy (FILL), it was discovered, that with the ongoing agitations by various Ijaw Oil communities. It was evident that another kind of conflict may ensue, and a violent agitation may emerge if issues of this utmost consideration are not attended to. As peace loving Ijaw communities, it will be recalled that under the aegis of FILL, few communities collaborated to draft a proposal for the development of the region; at least with the ecological trust funds, in which its use is absent, and has in the past voted unanimously to confront both local, state and federal government, and the Multinational Oil Companies to develop the area, but unfortunately, it fell on deaf ears.
Haven researched on several Abandoned Oil Wells which are Methane Gas Prone; Most Oil Multinational does not follow current international standards in decommissioning, remediation, reclamation and re-vegetation procedures. Research conducted indicated poor policy standards in the decommissioning, remediation and re-vegetation process, which makes the Multinational Oil Companies automatically liable in the violation of internationally accepted environmental policies. In all the sites visited, a pictorial view shows that that the casings of the Oil Wells were not properly removed, or the pipe were poorly capped with cements to prevent possible escape of Methane and other rare Gases (it is not surprising, then, that these attractive forces are easily overcome by thermal energy, so that melting and boiling occur at very low temperature at m.p. – 1830, b.p. – 161.50).
CHEMICAL BRIEF OF METHANE GAS
Methane is colourless and, when liquefied is less dense than water (sp.gr. 0.4). As reiterated by chemical scientist, and in agreement with the rule of thumb that “like dissolves like”, it’s only slightly soluble in water, but very soluble in organic liquids such as gasoline, either, and alcohol. It should be noted that methane is an end product of anaerobic (“without air”) decay of plants, that is, of the breakdown of certain very complicated molecules. As such, it is the major constituent (up to 96.85%) of natural gas. It is the dangerous firedamp of coal mine, and can be seen as marsh gas bubbling to the surface of swamp.
Imperatively, if methane is needed in pure form, it can be separated from the other constituent of natural gas (such as crude oil) by fractional distillation through ch
emotographic cracking of its hydrocarbon-Alkane chains. Most of it, of course is consumed as fuel without purification. This means that during the drilling of crude oil, all that is present in the Alkane-Aliphatic compounds of Hydrocarbon is Methane soiled Gas. At the expiration of the drilling, or perhaps the life span of the oil well; traces of Methane is still present as the byproduct of anaerobic manifestations, which includes its reactive nature with the halogenations with Iron/casings segments (X2 F2 > Cl2 > Br2 (> I2).
Quite specifically, it is rumoured by archaeologist and by some theories that, the origin of life go back to a primitive earth surrounded by an atmosphere of Methane, water, ammonia, Thick clouds of Nitrogen, and Hydrogen. This means that Methane (CH4) belonging to Aliphatic group of hydrocarbon family, under alkane analysis.
When methane swells up, and there is high level of O2, there is an Oxidation reaction taking place deriving the following Methane reaction:
CH4 + 2O2 —- (flame) –à CO2 + 2H2O + Heat (213 Kcal/mole) – Combustion
This means that when oil is dried up completely, with the transition state reached, a new generation of Carbonium ion is created and different nature of methyl epilates within the earth beds, escaping through the narrow curvatures of pipes, even though if they are properly capped.
PROCEDURES FOR PROPER ABANDONMENT
With regard to international standards, a rig is deployed to pull out pipes to definite kilometres from the earth, due to the presence of large oil valves which are sometimes several kilometres below the sea level. Or most likely, facilities could be developed to tap the methane gas present in some pipes for other economic uses. In Diebu Creek, an SPDC flow station, several visible oil wells heads, haven reach their life span are not properly decommissioned. This in the nearest future may disrupt peace and security in the area, as well as serve as a landmine in the eruption of uncontrolled agitation by Oil-Bearing communities in the region, starting with Diebu creek flow station.
Careful researched reports shows that, there are more than 30 abandoned Oil well Heads in Diebu Creek axis and other communities in Bayelsa state, Nigeria as they were not properly decommissioned and land reclaimed. Within the Niger Delta region of Rivers and Bayelsa State respectively, 40 Dry and un-decommissioned Oil wells are visible. With available seismic reports of these sites indicates that Methane can contaminate underwater life, should it escape into the estuary level of the sea.
Below is an international policy in properly decommissioning a Dry Oil Well (DOW), those policies required in addressing land/sea sites:
1. Demolition of existing camp/concrete structures.
2. Removal of existing well heads
3. Backfilling of existing pits (including large borrow pits)
4. Leveling of entire drill site to match natural contour level
5. Spreading of native humus soil and revegetation with native plant species
1. Ensuring that they are completely plugged and abandoned using a more cost-effective approach such as the use of highly compressed sodium bentonite
2. The wells should be cut below mud line and removed, that is, when highly compressed sodium bentonite (Zonite) for plugging well stubs.
Technically, if dry oil wells are not properly abandoned / decommissioned through remediation and reclamation in the case of onshore sites, it may lead to tremours, bombardment with the presence of high gaseous methane gas that could narrowly escape into the atmosphere causing explosion during bush burning, or some other environmental hazards. The fire outbreak at Obama flow station in 2001 and the attendant injury to the surrounding communities; which caused severe earth tremours and the raptures of the earth bed-wave. The affected communities included:
1. Ombuikiri community
2. Iwokiri Community
3. Sounkiri and Ologoama Communities
4. Akakumama community
5. Akribe Family and Akakumama Community
6. Solomon Family and Akakumama Community
7. Kariyai Family and Kariyaikiri Community
8. Owili Family and Emina-Ama Community;
These were the annexure communities and families that drafted a suite before NOAC, and it was reported that up till date no relief materials or compensation has been received by these communities and families, yet they continue to suffer the consequences of Oil Companies’ Monstrous and barbaric activities that have in all indications threatened the existences of the communities inhabitants and their immediate environments – a means for their survival. It is therefore a belief that NAOC’s intransigence and their unholy treatments of the wellbeing of the communities in this particular researched case study stems from the company’s knowledge about the Nigerian socio/economic condition, particularly our legal system which is fraught with avoidable delays and huge financial implications. These indices are obvious obstacles in the ability of the impoverished host oil communities to effectively champion their legal rights and compel the NNPC joint venture partners operating in their areas to recognize and carry our their obligations.
Before now it was known that our community lies in arable cum aquatic landmass, where our people involved both in subsistence agriculture and fishing as the means sources of livelihood; this was before the advent of crude oil exploration and exploitation. With the SPDC, AGIP and NNPC in our community, the sources of livelihood to our people were deprived. Gas is still flared in its high intensity, and with the acidic and thermal effects on plants, roofs and other water lives, productivity began to reduce. Waters are polluted with crude oil deposit in the water which affects fishes and aquatic lives, the effect of the gas flared caused acid corrugation to the roofing sheets thereby lowering the lifespan from 25-30 to 3-5 years. Apart from the above explanation given, the acid rain effects on plants are adverse. With the initiation of heat and thermal intensity, etiolating can occur with plants redundancy.
The Community which was once a visible mangrove land was canalized, with arable land used for agriculture being dredged in order to accommodate large Oil Wells Servicing Boats. With regard to the international standard, when these oil wells are dried up, remediation such as refilling and reclaiming site is carried out with recent international environmental standards and EIA carried out consecutively. With the negative effects of the MNOCs activities in my communities and its surrounding communities housing flow stations and improperly decommissioned oil well, the MNOCs is liable of a criminal charge by national and international court on failures to meet with the standard environmental and industrial practices. It is on this ground that we are demanding that several in-depth canals be remediated and land reclaimed for agricultural and other uses. For peace and tranquillity to reign in the communities and in the region, our canalized land should be reclaimed and remediated to ensure security, prosperity and posterity of our generation yet unborn. A visit and a thorough investigation of our community indicated that it is now situated in an island, causing erosion and other ocean prone problems.
The common practice with regard to international environmental standard is that the people be relocated, that is, if remediation and reclamation is going to be expensive, such as those in Finima, Bonny Island.
ECOLOGICAL TRUST FUND FOR COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT (ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTION)
The genesis of the ecological trust fund is towards the development of those areas that are poorly developed, as it is required in a decent rural/community/village or towns. Such as a standardized health care centres, Primary and Secondary schools, Electricity, Portable water, civic centres, town halls,
modern roof coverings and other benefits as stipulated in the utilization of the ecological trust fund.
It is pertinent that since the inception of crude oil exploration in our community in the early 50’s, and when ecological trust fund was passed into law by the Obasanjo’s administration, it positive effects in terms of development has not been benefited by our community. It is in this light we are stressing our discontent with how the trust fund is being utilized for community transformation. To digress a little bit, the north do not produce oil, yet the ecological trust fund is now being used to declare state of emergency in major villages in the North in terms of development, while our community is unattended to.
In our community, there is no visible and decent housing units, some and nearly all the necessary amenities to life is lacking, which is part of the Niger Delta question. The complexity is that, the presence of SPDC, AGIP, NNPC and other Multinational Oil Companies has caused more harm than good. It has worsened the standard of living of our people; it has shortened the only means of our survival through the pollution of our fishing waters, and the canalization of its arable land for sustainable agriculture. Health care is zero, as primitive medicine is still being applied to treat ailments.
The questions to be asked are;
1. What is the civic responsibility of these Multinational companies in the region?
2. What is the function of government in the JVC with MNOCs towards Host Oil-Bearing Communities’ development?
3. How have the actions of the court in regard to address the underdevelopment in my community and others been tackle and executed by the Executive arm of government?
4. Why is the deplorable condition of the people still 0% when more than 32% of the crude oil from Bayelsa comes from these communities and its neighbouring clan-communities?
Certainly these are the questions that need to be answered on a moral and economic grounds, without these issues being resolved, we fear that the Government and MNOCs commitment to develop the area will serve as another backup to derail justice towards deprivation and marginalization of our communities, as several other communities have taken the MNOCs and Government to court were denied the treasure of the law as it favoured them.
On these conditions, these communities have given AOGPC their full mandate, thus making them case before the ICJ on the ground that they believe that their suit may be dismissed in the Nigerian court, as it is evidence in several other court judgments.
Carl Collins Ogunshola Oshodi
Oshodi writes from Nigeria.