Royal Dutch Shell Group .com Shell Confirms 3 Dead in Oil Well Fire


Mike Oduniyi


Posted 21 May 04


Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), has confirmed the death of three people from its oil well fire in Afam, Oyigbo Local Government, Rivers State.


In a press statement signed by its Corporate Relations Manager, Mr Don Boham, the three were "probably illegal oil bunkerers that had dug into the Afam well-16, with intent to steal crude".


Meanwhile, the fire was still raging as at press time, as the fire fighting crew from Shell backed by teams from French oil firm Total and the Port Harcourt Refinery deployed to the site were unable to put out the fire, Shell said.


Boham said in the statement that the company had mobilised oil well fire experts from Boots and Coots International, and "Immigration formalities for the team are being processed towards its early arrival."


The suspected oil thieves, according to the statement, ruptured parts of the wellhead. "It seems likely that the casualties were in the process of stealing oil from the site at the time of the accident. A burning tanker has also been sighted at the scene of the fire.


"Appropriate government and regulatory authorities have been notified of the incident. A Joint Investigation Team comprising SPDC, Rivers State Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Ministry of Environment, Directorate of Petroleum Resources and members of Afam Community visited the site today (yesterday) and its report is being concluded," it added.


Although Shell had stopped oil production from the Afam field well since 1999 following a spate of community unrests, the company said there was no danger to the adjoining communities of Obeakpu, Afam-Nta, and Afam -Ukwu.


Shell, Nigeria's biggest crude oil producer, had reported rising cases of illegal bunkerers, who broke into its manifolds and risers in the night to perpetrate the act.


Facilities affected were usually the ones located in creeks opening into three main rivers around the area namely Bonny River, Calabar River and Sombreiro.


Official figures put Nigeria's yearly revenue loss to crude theft and vandalisation of oil facilities at $8 billion.

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