SEPCOL Explosion: More Bodies Recovered, Four Still Missing

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Two more bodies have been recovered from the Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) facility, belonging to Shebah Exploration & Production Company Limited (SEPCOL) which exploded in Warri, Delta State, last Wednesday.

With the company’s announcement yesterday, three persons aboard the vessel have now been confirmed dead, three have been found alive while four crew members were still unaccounted for as at yesterday.

On Sunday, the company, which is in receivership, indicated that one unidentified body had been noticed floating around the vessel, Trinity Spirit, located at Ukpokiti field (OML 108).

The asset, before it exploded, had the capacity to process up to 22,000 barrels of oil per day, inject up to 40,000 barrels of water per day and store 2 million barrels of oil.

In an update on further recoveries, made available in Abuja on Monday, the management of the organisation revealed that the two additional bodies were found on the deck of the vessel.

“The management of Shebah Exploration & Production Company Ltd (SEPCOL) in receivership, announces further developments on the ongoing investigations into the unfortunate explosion and fire that engulfed the FPSO Trinity Spirit at the Ukpokiti Terminal in the early hours of Wednesday, 2nd of February 2022.

“Per our previous statement, the fire burnt out completely as of Thursday afternoon, 3rd of February 2022, thus enabling closer inspection of the vessel. Working with the relevant authorities, stakeholders, and expert organisations, a Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) took place on Saturday, 5th February 2022.

“We also reported that on Sunday morning, 6th February 2022, NIMASA (Nigerian Maritime Administration & Safety Agency) notified us of a dead body found floating in the vicinity of the FPSO.

“We can confirm today that two further dead bodies were discovered on the deck of the vessel in the afternoon of the same Sunday,” the Chief Executive Officer of SEPCOL, Ikemefuna Okafor, stated.

The company noted that it had made incident reports to the police and relevant authorities to assist in the ongoing investigation, stressing that efforts to establish the identities of the dead bodies were underway.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of all the victims of this unfortunate incident, and we are on hand to provide support to them as required.

“Thus far, the potential total number of the crew members accounted for is six, including the three persons who were found alive last week. Our priority remains focused towards establishing the whereabouts, safety, and security of the four crew members still missing,” the company stressed.

According to the statement, all efforts are now geared towards cleaning up the area to minimise any damage to the environment and in addition to ascertaining the exact cause of the explosion.

SEPCOL also commended all government agencies and the communities, particularly the fishermen, who it said helped with the initial rescue.

“Our crisis management team will continue to monitor developments in the investigations and update all stakeholders with new information accordingly.

“We appeal to members of the public to keep away from the area and contact the company with any information that may assist our investigations,” SEPCOL noted.

Trinity Spirit is the primary production facility for OML 108, which covers 750 square km (290 square miles) of water off the Niger Delta, ranging from a depth of 30 metres to 213 metres, according to SEPCOL’s website.

THISDAY checks showed that the huge facility was built in 1976 (46 years ago), with a carrying capacity of 274774 Dead Weight Tonnage (DWT).

SEPCOL had in 2004 acquired all of 40 per cent of ConocoPhillips equity interest in OML 108 and is owned by a combination of Nigerian and overseas corporate entities, which include: Abbeycourt Trading Company Limited (ATCO), Abbeycourt Petroleum Company Limited and Allenne Limited.

At the time the massive fire erupted on-board the vessel, it was learnt that about 10 persons were within the facility.

A Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) with the relevant authorities, stakeholders, and expert organisations visited the location on Saturday, but the report had yet to be made public.

When the vessel caught fire, the Minister of State, Environment, Sharon Ikeazor, said at the weekend that the oil storage facility was holding around 50,000 to 60,000 barrels of crude oil .

Ikeazor had said the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) had called the oil industry operators and the Clean Nigeria Associates, a cooperative responding to oil spill incidents for support.

Meanwhile, Ikeazor has said that the National Oil Spill Detection Response Agency (NOSDRA) has commenced overflight operations at the site of the exploded vessel to monitor the situation of crude spill in the sea.

Director of Press, Ministry of Environment, Saghir el Mohammed, quoted the minister as saying that the overflight operation would be sustained to ensure the evacuation of remnants of oil in the damaged vessel.

She said the fire at the Ukpokiti oil field has been ‘totally’ extinguished, adding that NOSDRA will monitor the situation and work towards averting a recurrence.

She noted that the overflight operation will be sustained in the weeks ahead until whatever remnants of oil in the FPSO are evacuated and measures evolved to forestall a recurrence of such incidents.

“While the cause of the fire incident is yet to be fully determined, the environment around the FPSO is only slightly covered by the sheen and emulsified oil,” the minister said.

While initial information approximated the quantity of oil in the FPSO in the recent past to be a little less than 200,000 barrels, she said that one of the operators utilising the services had made an offtake of approximately 120,000 barrels before the incident.

Thus the vessel , she explained, was left with an estimated 50,000-60 000 barrels as at the time of the fire incident, she noted.

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