Tuesday 1 December 2020

Apoi Creek covered with crude oil following spill in Bayelsa State, Nigeria.

The Apoi Creek (part of the Niger Delta system) in the Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, Nigeria, has been covered by a layer of crude oil following a leak on Sunday 29 November 2020, according to Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria. The incident happened at a facility belonging to the Nigerian Agip Oil Company between the communities of Ogboinbiri and Keme-ebiama, with oil reportedly flowing downstream towards the communities of Keme-ebiama, Kokologbene, Apoi, and up to Gbaraun. These communities are almost entirely reliant upon the creek for water for bathing and cooking, as well as Fish and water for irrigating farms.

Crude oil on the Apoi Creek in Bayelsa State, Nigeria. EnviroNews Nigeria.

The Niger Delta covers about 70 000 km² (roughly 8% of Nigeria's total landmass), and produces around 2 million barrels of crude oil per day, an industry that has existed in the area since the 1950s. An average of 240 000 barrels of oil are lost into the environment each year, creating massive levels of groundwater and soil pollution. This pollution is in itself highly toxic and leads to a variety of chronic health problems, but in the Niger Delta it is at such high levels that in many places agriculture and aquaculture (fish farming) have become impossible or severely curtailed, creating a food security crisis. Little of the wealth generated by the oil extraction process has reached the people of the Delta and there are no realistic plans to remediate the ongoing crisis. 

Location of Apoi Creek within Nigeria’s Niger Delta. Ayanlade & Proske (2015).

Oil companies operating in the Niger Delta have come under considerable criticism from Nigerian and international human rights and environmental groups for failure to report leakages and/or attributing leakages caused by poor maintenance to sabotage or criminal activity, for which it is not obliged to compensate local communities. The Nigerian government has also come under criticism, for being over reliant on expert advice from oil companies as to the cause of leakages.


Oil spill on the Apoi Creek, Nigeria, on 29 November 2020. EnviroNews Nigeria.

The Niger River has been flowing into the Bight of Benin since at least the Cretaceous. During this time it has meandered back and forth across what is now southern Nigeria, as well as moving back and forth with the rise and fall of the sea level. The river caries a great deal of sediment with it, which is dumped when it reaches the sea forming the delta. Over time the organic material within the sediment forms pockets, which are then heated and crushed by the overlying sediment (increasing pressure also increases temperature, and vice versa, which is why aerosol sprays, undergoing rapid decompression, are cold), forcing water out of more complex organic compounds (dehydration) and forming pockets of gas and oil.

Schematic map of the Niger Delta showing the distribution of depositional and structural belts. Hooper et al. (2002).

Oil spills are potentially harmful to marine life in a variety of ways. Most obviously it can coat the outside of organisms, causing damage to external structures such as the feathers of Birds and fur of Mammals, as well as smothering many marine invertebrates and plants. It also contains a variety of chemicals which can be directly toxic upset the hormonal balance of many animals. Oil also impedes the feeding of marine organisms, coating both food and feeding organs, but provides an excellent food source for Bacteria, which can lead to Eutrophication events - dramatic increases in Bacteria numbers, which then use all the oxygen in the water, leading other organisms to asphyxiate.

See also...

Follow Sciency Thoughts on Facebook.

Follow Sciency Thoughts on Twitter.