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Expert Calls for a Robust Investment in Preventing Oil Spillage

The oil and gas industry understands the import and dangers that oil spills pose to the ecological and socio-economic system of the nation, hence the substantial effort dedicated to designing operational procedures that could help prevent spills from occurring and improve the readiness and swiftness of clean-up operations when a spillage occurs.

This was the thrust of a presentation titled Oil Spill Management: An Introduction to Preparedness, Response, and the Nigerian Framework by the Principal Environmental Scientist, National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Engr. Olawale Akinyokun (MNSE), at the first Town and Gown seminar, Department of Civil Engineering, Covenant University, on Friday, September 30, 2022.

Engr. Akinyokun said every spillage is potentially hazardous to the environment, thus the need for the oil and gas industry to constantly incorporate new research, understanding, and lessons learned to improve spill prevention.

According to him, a focus on preparedness and prevention has averted and reduced numerous large-tier spill incidents ten-fold from the 1970s to the present day, noting that spills could result from operational failure, well-head blowout, third-party interference with acts such as sabotage, arson, oil theft, bunkering activities, etc.

Engr. Akinyokun, who is a 2013 class graduate of Covenant University, said in the unlikely event that an oil spill does occur, the industry’s primary goal is to minimize the impact of the spill on humans, animals, plants and the environment.

"A well-planned, rapid, and effective approach is required amidst the disruption often caused by oil spills. While objectives may vary depending on the specific circumstances of the spill," he submitted.

He was of the view that safeguarding the safety and health of people, both first responders and communities, stopping the source of the spill as quickly as possible, minimizing environmental and community impact, abating the risk of oil reaching the shore in offshore scenarios and reducing the risk of oil entering watercourses or groundwater in onshore scenarios are important objectives of every spill management situation.

Engr. Akinyokun said every oil spill risk assessment and response planning process must allow the identification and adequate planning and provision for spill scenarios of all scales and complexities. According to him, a good practices guide on contingency planning for oil spills on waterways must consider some critical elements like the basis of response preparedness, understanding the level of risk, and developing robust response procedures for spill scenarios up to and including the worst possible case.

In addition, he said, they must be ready to work with regulators and the community to secure pre-authorizations for the preferred response techniques, ensure that communications strategies are in place, and conduct training and exercises to test the plan and validate response capability.

Engr. Akinyokun said effective oil spill preparedness requires personnel who understand and can perform a variety of emergency response and incident management functions. According to him, "The purpose of oil spill training is to ensure that the appropriate personnel are identified and given appropriate opportunities to learn and maintain relevant knowledge and skills."

He called for a clear communication plan that is critical to a successful response and includes the development of pre-established points of stakeholder contact within the industry, government, and community as part of the preparedness process.

The guest speaker concluded by suggesting that a shared view of situational awareness using surveillance, modelling, and visualization tools (remote sensing and aerial observation) as inputs to a Common Operating Picture (COP) will ensure that all stakeholders are operating from the same perspective.

Engr. Akinyokun said this, along with a good understanding of each stakeholder’s primary concerns, would assist a unified command in developing a response strategy that achieves appropriate response objectives and priorities.

Earlier, in his welcome remarks, Professor Anthony Ede, Head of the Department of Civil Engineering, stated that the guest speaker for the seminar was chosen to bring a practical perspective to civil engineering issues while also helping students in the department see career opportunities in the oil and gas industry.

Professor Ede promised to make the themes emerging from the seminar serve as aspects of the term papers of the students in the course of the mid-semester.

The ‘Town and Gown’ was the first in the Department of Civil Engineering of the Alpha Semester for the 2022/2023 academic session.



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