Oil Ship Explodes in Nigeria Emitting Clouds of Black Smoke

ABUJA, Nigeria, February 3, 2022 (ENS) – The floating production, storage and offloading vessel Trinity Spirit exploded and sank early Wednesday morning at the Ukpokiti Terminal, around Excravos, Warri South-west, in Nigeria’s Delta State, close to the River Niger Delta.

Built 1976, the FPSO vessel had the capacity to process up to 22,000 barrels of oil a day, inject up to 40,000 barrels of water per day, and store two million barrels of oil.

The fate of the crew is still unknown. Ten workers were onboard the vessel when it exploded. Seven of the crew men are missing, and three are feared dead, according to Mikhail Voytenko at the vessel-tracking website Fleetmon.

The incident is confirmed by the Nigerian company SEPCOL, owner of the Trinity Spirit. SEPCOL CEO Ikemefuna Okafor said in a statement, “The management of Shebah Exploration & Production Company Ltd (SEPCOL) in receivership, hereby announces the unfortunate incident of a fire that engulfed our offshore facility, the FPSO Trinity Spirit located at the Ukpokiti Teminal, following an explosion during the early hours of Wednesday, 2nd of February 2022.”

“The cause of the explosion is currently being investigated and we are working with necessary parties to contain the situation,” SEPCOL stated.

“At this time there are no reported fatalities, but we can confirm that there were 10 crew men on board the vessel prior to the incident and we are prioritising investigations with respect to their safety and security,” Okafor said.

“We appreciate the assistance provided us by the Clean Nigeria Associates, the Chevron team operating in the nearby Escravos facility, and our community stakeholders as well as fishermen, who have been of tremendous assistance since the incident happened,” he said.

Okafor assured the public that the company has notified all relevant authorities and is asking the public not to come to the explosion site, saying, “We appeal to the members of the public to stay away from the area while our Crisis Management Team continues to monitor the situation and update all stakeholders with new information as the investigation evolves.”

At the time of the explosion, the Trinity Spirit had about 50,000 barrels of oil in storage and was not pumping crude from the Ukpokiti oilfield, an oil industry source told reporters.

SEPCOL is in receivership, a means of bankruptcy protection, because the company had its license to produce oil revoked in 2019 by Nigeria’s upstream regulator, now known as the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission.

While it is not yet known how much oil will be spilled by the Trinity Spirit explosion and sinking, a spill is expected.

This is Nigeria’s second major environmental disaster in three months, after an oil spill from a capped well no longer in use released 20,000 barrels of oil a day for a month in Nembe, Bayelsa state last November. The leaking oil killed marine life and damaged mangroves and waterways.

President of the Nembe Se Congress Professor Monday Godwin-Egein called it, “…the biggest oil spill disaster in the history of oil and gas exploration and exploitation in Nigeria.”

“Unfortunately, there appears to be no immediate respite in sight for our people as the affected company, Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Limited, does not have the capability or necessary assets to contain the situation. Thus, dangerous hydrocarbon fluids are gushing out from the wellhead at an unprecedented rate,” Godwin-Egein told the Nigerian news outlet “This Day Live.”

“Reports so far show that over 2,000,000 million barrels of crude oil and gas has already spilled onto the river, and have spread through the interwoven network of rivers, creeks and tributaries all the way to the Atlantic Ocean; and in the process contaminating the ecosystem around Nene Se Kingdom and communities in Nembe and Brass Local GovernmentAreas of the state,” Godwin-Egein said.

In the first month of 2022, there have already been three major oil spills around the world, in Ecuador, Peru, and Thailand.

Featured image: The 46-year-old floating production, storage and offloading vessel Trinity Spirit exploded and sank close to the River Niger Delta, February 2, 2022 (Screengrab from video by: www.instagram.com/salvage_and_wreck/)

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