FPSO Explodes and Sinks off Nigeria with 10 Aboard
An aging tanker that was operating as a floating oil production and storage vessel (FPSO) exploded and caught fire before sinking off the coast of Nigeria on Wednesday, February 2. Ten people working aboard the vessel were reported missing and presumed killed.
The Trinity Spirit, which was 274,774 dwt and measured 1,105 feet, was built in 1976. Shebah Exploration and Production Company Limited (SEPCOL) which was the operator at the Nigerian oil field reports that an offshore company purchased the FPSO Trinity Spirit from ConocoPhillips and leased it the vessel to SEPCOL on a bareboat basis. The FPSO was serving as the primary production facility for the OML 108 in Nigeria's offshore Ukpokiti oil field located near the Niger Delta.
The company indicated that the Trinity Spirit could process up to 22,000 barrels per day as well as inject up to 40,000 barrels with water per day. Its storage capacity was 2 million barrels of oil, although it is not known how much was aboard at this time. The Nigerian oil ministry indicated that the Ukpokiti oil field was not in production in 2020 and 2021. Some reports are indicating that the company was in financial trouble and that the Nigerian authorities revoked the production license in 2019.
Details about the incident are scarce. Local media outlets report that there were one or more explosions aboard the vessel early on Wednesday followed by the raging fire. Pictures from the scene show the vessel settling midships with the fire raging near the accommodation block and bridge.
SEPCOL issued a brief statement saying that the vessel had caught fire after an explosion confirming that 10 people were working aboard the vessel. They said that attempts to contain the situation were being made with help from local communities and other oil fields companies working in the area.
"The cause of the explosion is currently being investigated and we are working with necessary parties to contain the situation," said the company's chief executive Ikemefuna Okafor in the written statement. "We appreciate the assistance provided us by the Clean Nigeria Associates, the Chevron team operating in the nearby Escravos facility, and our community stakeholders as well as fishermen, who have been of tremendous assistance since the incident happened.”
Nigerian officials said efforts were underway to contain the environmental damage to the vessel and that they planned to conduct a full investigation into the cause of the fire.