An oil production ship exploded off the coast of Nigeria in what may prove to be the nation’s second major environmental setback in three months.
The Trinity Spirit, able to store about 2 million barrels of oil, blew up early Wednesday, Shebah Exploration & Production Co., which has the vessel on lease, said in a statement. The ship can process up to 22,000 barrels a day, according to the company’s website.
While no fatalities have been confirmed, 10 crew were on board the vessel when it exploded, according to Shebah. The company said it is investigating the cause.
The incident puts increasing focus on the oil industry’s environmental legacy in Nigeria. In November, a well operated by independent producer Aiteo Eastern E&P Co. blew, spewing oil and gas into the air and surrounding river for five weeks before it was capped.
As international companies such as Shell Plc sell their remaining onshore and shallow water assets in the country, activists and local communities fear they will retreat without addressing widespread damage allegedly caused by decades of pumping oil.
It’s unclear how much crude was being held on the Trinity Spirit. Data published by Nigeria’s state-owned energy company show no production from Shebah’s permit in 2020 or 2021, while the country’s oil regulator announced in mid-2019 it was revoking the license.
The vessel was still on fire Thursday evening, Idris Musa, director general of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, said.
Shebah is in receivership, according to the company’s statement. The firm had offered the vessel, which is owned by a related company, to the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, or AMCON, the state-owned debt recovery agency, to pay down some of its debt, a spokesman for the government agency said. “The process was yet to be concluded,” he said.