The Moment (London)

Nigeria: Bonga Oil Spill - NGO Criticises the Use of Dispersants On Clean-Up By SPDC

AN NGO, the U.S. Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund Project on Kenaf Clean-up in the Niger Delta, has criticised Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC for using dispersants to clean up the oil spill at its Bonga oil field.

The NGO's project team leader, Dr Morufat Balogun, said in a statement made available to News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Tuesday that the use of dispersants should be carefully planned and controlled because of their limitations.

She described dispersants as chemicals sprayed on oil slicks to accelerate the process of natural dispersion, saying that they were meant to minimise the damage caused by floating oil.

Balogun said that approval must be given by the regulatory government agency before dispersants could be used.

'Who approved the dispersants being used? Was there a thorough monitoring and assessment plan for the application of the dispersants?'

Balogun said that dispersants usually dissipated large amounts of oil from the sea surface by transferring them into the water column.

'They will cause the oil slick to break up and form water-soluble micelles that are rapidly diluted.

'The oil is then effectively spread throughout a larger volume of water than the surface from where the oil was dispersed and can also delay the formation of persistent oil-in-water emulsions.'

Balogun further said that laboratory experiments had shown that dispersants increased toxic hydrocarbon levels in fish by a factor of up to 100 and could kill fish eggs.

She said that in the U.S., dispersants were used under water only with continuous and rigorous monitoring of their effectiveness and impact on the environment.

'The (U.S.) government reserves the right to discontinue the use of a dispersant method if negative impacts on the environment outweigh the benefits,' she said, criticising the use of dispersants in the Bonga oil spill.

'It is being carried out without following safe and due procedures,' Balogun claimed.

NAN reports that the Kenaf project, sponsored by the alumni office of the U.S. Department of State, is designed to use local plants such as Kenaf for the clean-up of oil spill in the Niger Delta through a participatory, sustainable and community-integrated strategy.

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