Ogoni: Shell Assures on Yorla Well Fire
The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) has reassured the neighbouring Ogoni communities, the Rivers State Government and the general public that it was doing everything possible to put out the fire on Yorla Well -13 in Rivers State, saying that initial difficulties in accessing the site caused delays and complications in the well control exercise.
A statement by Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, Shell’s external affairs director, said the operations to disable the well and extinguish the fire started last week after detailed preparations and technical planning.
According to the statement, made available to The Tide yesterday, the operation, supported by well fire specialists, Boots and Coots Company of
“The well head has been cut and efforts are being made to control the gas from the well and extinguish the fire”, the statement said, noting that “the cause of the fire is yet to be determined, but preliminary observations suggest tampering by unknown persons”.
“When the fire was reported to us on August 14, SPDC was denied access to the site by community youths, and officials of the Rivers State Government had to lead protracted discussions before we were allowed in”, she said in the statement.
“Working through a community contractor and, in agreement with the Ogoni Youth Council, we repaired access roads, prepared the location, and mobilised fire fighting and well services teams to Yorla to repair any damage and fight the fire”, the statement added.
She said that “the delay in putting out the fire may have increased its intensity, hence the need to invite US-based international fire experts, Boots and Coots Company.
“Specialized equipment, including a jet cutter, for this operation has been brought in from other parts of the world, in addition to fabricating some locally”, the statement said.
“We remain very concerned about the possible environmental damage from the fire and share the concern of the neighbouring communities and other stakeholders over the incident and the clean-up of the affected areas”, she said.
SPDC withdrew from Ogoni in 1993, and has not operated there since then.
The Tide investigations show that over the years, SPDC had sought unfettered access to secure and make its facilities in the area safe, to no avail.Following the withdrawal of SPDC, sources said, unknown persons have removed most of the facilities, including flowlines and flowstation equipment.