Oct 30, 2006

Ogoni: Shell to Extinguish Fire

Commander of Shell's Emergency Response Team said oil exploration could not begin until the reconciliation process brokered by the Nigerian government between Shell and the local community had been concluded.

Abuka- Shell arrived in Port Harcourt in the Niger Delta Saturday to extinguish a fire burning at its wellhead in Yorla since August 14 and not to resume oil production, a statment said. Shell vacated Ogoniland in 1993 at the peak of violent disruptions of its activities people.

The commander of the company's Emergency Response Team, Ikechukwu Ikoro, said oil exploration in Ogoniland could not begin until the reconcilation process brokered by the Nigerian government between Shell and the local community, had been concluded.

Ikoro told reporters that Shell remained committed to the peace process and called on Ogoni residents to contribue to it.

"We know that some people have misinterpreted our efforts to fight the fire to mean that we have surreptitiously begun operations in Ogoniland," he said.

"We are committed to the reconciliation efforts and will not drill even a drop of oil until we have the understanding of all Ogoni people," Ikoro added.

The fire at the wellhead has been burning for over two months because of the unavailability of specialised oil well fire-fighting tools and equipment in Nigeria.

If the fire was extinguished spontaneously, this would result in a lot of environmental damage as hydrocarbons that fuelled it needed to be cleared beforehand, Ikoro said.

The fire is presently being tackled with the help of a fire- engine pumping 4,000 gallons of water per minute.

The machine is being served by seven different boreholes sunk around the wellhead and by water from a nearby stream channelled to the machine.