The Management of the Nigerian Petroleum Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) has confirmed a fire incident triggered by a suspected associated gas reservoir within the vicinity of Caritas University in Enugu, on May 22, 2022.
In a statement personally signed by Engr. Gbenga Komolafe, the Commission’s Chief Executive, the NUPRC boss said the incident was reported to NUPRC on May 26, 2022, but said Geophysical Resistivity Survey to be carried out by the Caritas University on the area from June 3 and 4, 2022, would acquire data that will give better insight on the near-surface gas concentration in the area and its potential spread.
“It was confirmed that there is no pipeline right of way in the area and that the incident was caused by the activities of some contractors who were drilling a water borehole on the premises of the University.
“On receipt of the incident report, NUPRC alongside other related agencies immediately carried out an investigation and discovered that the incident happened in the process of drilling a water well with a target drill depth of 400 meters for the University.
“It was learnt that the university engaged the services of HydroGeo Engineering Services for the drilling of water borehole but the job was later sub-contracted to Orange Water Wells Drilling Company. In the course of the drilling, pressurized seepage was encountered after about 200 meter and fumes were gushing out of the drilled hole.
“One of the workers who suspected the fumes to be gas seepage reportedly wanted to confirm his suspicion, and in process introduced a source of ignition which led to the fire outbreak. It was the unfortunate action that provided a stronger basis for the qualification of the fumes as associated gas.
“Following the fire outbreak, the drilling contractor swiftly removed the drill pipes, demobilised the rig and immediately notified the Enugu State government of the incident.
“The state and federal fire services which were mobilised to the site, battled the fire for more than two days.
“The university authority cordoned off the site and restricted access to the area; and directed for the immediate discontinued usage of all facilities within the affected area, including a nearby hall used for examinations.”
According to the statement, representatives of the NUPRC, in collaboration with officials of NORSDRA, NMDPRA, NNPC, NCDSC and other related enforcement agencies paid visits to the site on May 27 and 31, 2022 respectively for the preliminary investigation to ascertain the status and also gain insight on the cause to determine immediate safety and geotechnical measures required to put off the fire and prevent loss of lives, property and damage to the environment.
The Commission noted that during the visits, the officials confirmed that no fatality was recorded as a result of the incident, although a staff of the drilling company had sustained first-degree burns, adding that the staff was treated and discharged from the hospital.
NUPRC, therefore, stated that the preliminary investigation revealed that there is no pipeline right of way in the area, and that there is a continuous supply of gas from the underground source evidenced by the continuous fire which is suggestive of the presence of shallow gas which may be associated with coal bed methane gas or gas seepage.