Peter Idaor, head of Nigeria’s National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, said the slick is expected to reach beaches by Thursday afternoon, likely impacting birds, fish and other wildlife.
Idabor said the Bonga spill was the most major oil spill to occur offshore Nigeria since 1998, Mobil field, when less than 40,000 barrels of oil leaked from a Mobil field, resulting in oil slicks extending for more than 100 miles to Lagos.
Shell estimated on Wednesday that the Bonga oil spill was likely less than 40,000 barrels. The incident occurred during the routine transfer of crude from the Bonga floating production, storage and offloading vessel (FPSO) to a waiting oil tanker. An export line linking the FPSO and the tanker was identified as the likely source, and has been closed and de-pressurized. The facility has been shut in since the morning of Dec. 21.
The company reported on Wednesday that up to 50 percent of the leaked oil has already dissipated due to natural dispersion and evaporation.
"As satellite pictures have shown, the overall area covered by the sheen is large,” Shell said in a statement. "However, the sheen itself is very thin (less than a hundredth of a millimeter) in most areas."
Shell said it had deployed vessels with dispersants and airplanes to accelerate the clean-up of oil, and would deploy infra-red equipment airplanes to trace the few areas where the sheen may be thicker.
"This would allow for a targeted use of the dispersant," Shell noted.
The facility is located 75 miles offshore the Nigerian coast. Bonga, which began operations in November 2005 and can produce more than 200,000 bpd of oil and 150 MMscfd of gas, is situated in 3,281 feet (1,000 meters) of water and is Nigeria’s first major deepwater oil and gas project.
Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited is operator of Bonga and the majority venture partner.
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