Shell Oil Spill in Nigeria could be the worst spill in a decade

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Dec 22, 2011, Lagos– A large oil spill from Shell’s Bonga oil field, which is about 75 miles off the coast of Nigeria,  is reportedly the worst such spill reported in a decade, say news reports. Reports vary of how large the spill is, from some reports saying it has affected 115 miles of ocean to other more severe ones, saying it is at least 320 square miles large. Shell estimates that about 40,000 barrels of oil may have leaked into the ocean. The entire Bonga oil field was shut down as a safety precaution.

The oil spill apparently occurred due to a rupture in a flexible export pipeline running from an FPSO in the  Bonga field to an oil tanker. (FPSO is an acronym used in the Oil & Gas industry for Floating Production Storage and Offtake vessels).

The source of the leak has been plugged, said Peter Ibador, head of the Nigerian National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, say news reports.

But the spill has started moving towards to coast and poses a serious threat to the environment, adversely affecting birds, fish and other marine life. Experts from Britain have been called to help, as have been Nigerian naval ships who have been pressed into action to help with the cleanup. Infra red equiopment is being used to find out places where the sheen is thicker and dispersants are being used to clear it up.

Shell now says that about 50% of the oil has already been dissipated or evaporated, though a rainbow like sheen can still be seen on the ocean’s surface.