Nigerian well blowout? Chevron to begin drilling relief wells


In the coming days I plan to post a few short pieces with additional information on offshore drilling oversight (or lack of), the subject of my recent article on iwatch news.

In the meantime, though, I want to put up a quick post about the Chevron rig that has been burning uncontrollably off the coast of Nigeria since January 16th.

A January 17th post on the Skytruth blog suggested that, given the intensity of the fire, a well blowout was a possibility.

Skytruth posted more information on the 20th: Chevron Blowout and Rig Fire off Nigeria – Small Slick Visible on Radar Today. According to Skytruth, recent satellite images suggest that the well may not contain much oil — if so, this is encouraging news on the oil spill front. But it doesn’t diminish the damage that the fire itself is causing (or can cause — no information available).

On January 26th, Chevron provided an update:

Chevron Nigeria Ltd. (CNL) is finalizing plans to commence drilling two relief wells to control the Funiwa Deep 1A well. The fire is still burning at the well, but at a diminished rate. Based on the condition of the well, the safest way to control the well is to drill a relief well to kill the well at reservoir depth.

CNL is mobilizing two rigs and planning to drill two relief wells. The rigs are being provided by Transocean, on loan from ExxonMobil, and Noble, in cooperation with ENI and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. It is estimated drilling could begin within the next 7 to 10 days.

CNL continues to monitor the well for impacts to the environment. CNL has hired local community residents as beach walkers to monitor the shoreline. To date there have been no reports of crude oil on the beaches.

We are currently moving food and supplies to the communities in the area to recognize the help and support that they have given us.

The same day, Ben Amunwa at Platform, posted a series of photos of the still-burning rig. He included a photo of a dead fish and indicated that there were no signs of any company efforts to monitor the ecological impact of the fire. He added, “The company has so far dismissed the impact on local livelihoods, claiming that ‘no impacts to the beach have been reported.’ However, the disaster appears to be having devastating consequences for marine life. As ERA reports from the Koluama River: ‘There were dead fish floating and some in throes of death; struggling to stay alive.'”

For now, this is what we know: Two people were killed when the natural gas exploration well exploded 6 miles/10 km off the coast of Nigeria. 152 people were evacuated. The well is burning and will continue to burn until the relief wells can kill it. Chevron can’t estimate how long this will take. There is no information available on the amount of gas that is burning, nor is there any information on the oil that may be leaking from the well and not burning (as seen in the satellite images posted on Skytruth).

Chevron is not using the word “blowout,” which of course evokes memories of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. But call it what you want, Chevron does not have this situation under control.

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