A NOAA satellite image off Nigeria’s coastline shows the new Shell oil spill covering a 356-square-mile patch of ocean.
“Nigeria Oil Spill Raises Concerns About New Drilling Technology
By Deepwater Horizon mega-disaster benchmarks, it’s not so big — but it might be in the Exxon Valdez ballpark, and underscores the risks of a new deepwater oil-gathering technique that’s coming soon to the Gulf of Mexico.
“The significance here is the technology they’re using,” said John Amos of the environmental watchdog group Skytruth. “It’s a whole new source of potentially major oil spills.”
The spill occurred Dec. 20 at Shell’s Bonga deepwater facility, prompting an immediate temporary closure of the oil field. Shell estimated that up to 40,000 barrels of oil — about 7 million gallons, compared to 11 million gallons for the Exxon Valdez — leaked.
Unlike the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which involved the blowout of a wellhead 5,000 feet deep, the Bonga spill occurred at the surface during transfer of crude oil between ships. It was relatively easy to fix, which at first glance might seem reassuring.
“It is important to stress that this was not a well control incident of any sort,” said Shell Nigeria chairman Mutiu Sunmonu in a statement. But Amos says the spill is still troubling.
Oil in the Bonga deepwater field is collected by a method known as floating production storage and offloading, or FPSO, in which crude oil is piped to floating, mobile tanks, usually converted supertankers, rather than fixed platforms. Shuttle tankers collect oil from the FPSO and carry it to market.”
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