Nigeria is the sixth-largest oil producer in the world and the largest oil-producing country in Africa. As such, oil is one of Nigeria’s primary revenue sources. According to OPEC, “petroleum exports revenue represents around 86 per cent of total exports revenue”. The oil industry is constantly in motion, and this leads to many significant problems for the industry. One of the biggest challenges facing the oil industry is oil spills and these occur regularly. Oil spills are often caused by system failure, interference, or vandalism by third parties.
Oil spills have a severely negative impact on marine life specifically and the environment in general. However, despite these negative consequences, it is rare for an oil spill to be resolved quickly and effectively in Nigeria and almost everywhere else. The Founder and CEO of Kenyon International West Africa, Victor Ekpenyong, has disclosed that there are many ways to improve Nigeria’s oil systems and infrastructures. Kenyon International is a Nigerian oil management company which has been making significant waves in the industry. This was particularly apparent after the company managed the Nembe oil spill in 2021.
CEO, Kenyon International, Victor Ekpenyong
Copyright: Kenyon International
Approximately 52% of all the oil wells in Nigeria are owned by private companies and individuals, with the remaining 48% owned by foreign investors and corporations. A significant proportion of these oil wells are idle, which means that they are not producing oil, and some of these idle wells are not secured correctly. Ekpenyong has stated that many oil spills and leaks occur because of third-party interference and equipment failures.
The negative ramifications of oil spills are not only environmental as they lead to a great deal of lost revenue and productivity. The Nigerian federal government’s ministry of budgeting and planning creates a benchmark for crude oil production. This benchmark is calculated daily and based on oil barrels production. Ekpenyong has explained this as follows, “the benchmarking enables them to create a budget for the year. If for example, the projected daily production for the year 2022 was 1.8 million barrels per day at 60 dollars per barrel, and there were 1 million barrels lost per day due to pipeline vandalism, we would have lost a huge chunk of our revenue.”
The loss of trust of people and communities is another negative effect of oil spills. This loss of confidence affects governments and oil companies because of the environmental ramifications of oil spills. These ramifications include a significant death of marine life in Nigerian communities, which the people depend on for commercial and sustenance purposes. Ekpenyong has therefore emphasized the relevance of developing relationships with communities near oil production facilities. This can result in the restoration of idle wells and the prevention of oil spills caused mainly by vandalism and other third-party actions.
In this regard, Ekpenyong has said, “the locals are not able to fish or carry out their regular activities due to the impact of the oil in their rivers. So, in essence, there needs to be some form of communal effort involving the government, regulators, operating companies, and host communities in solving these persisting problems of vandalism and oil spillages.”
The oil industry in Nigeria is constantly confronted with challenges, and the team at Kenyon International is developing solutions to the problem of mismanagement of oil infrastructure in Nigeria. He is of the opinion that idle oil wells can be restored, which will result in a boost in oil production. However, oil well restoration requires a detailed plan illustrating how these wells can be restored.
Ekpenyong proposes a step-by-step approach to the problem of community restoration and the environmental consequences of oil spills. “First, we send some of our technicians to conduct a thorough inspection of the area to know what we are up against,” he said. “Next, we ascertain the severity of the spill. After this process, we go to the drawing board to map out ways to curb the spill. Finally, we mobilize our team—consisting of engineers, safety officers and other specialists—to contain the spill.”
Ekpenyong and his team have also developed a plan to restore idle wells in Nigeria. They have submitted their robust plan for idle well restoration and management to oil operators and the relevant regulatory bodies in Nigeria. In this plan, Ekpenyong emphasizes the importance of solving the problem of idle wells by preventing interference from third parties and implementing maintenance plans.
Ekpenyong is also of the view that he and his company can provide the oil infrastructure in Nigeria, and other African countries, the facelift that it sorely requires. Oil companies faced with the problem of idle oil wells “could reach out to us so we can help them develop effective systems they could put in place to efficiently manage their wells and prevent such environmental disasters keeping both customers and the host communities safe”.