BSP, govt agencies take prompt action to clear oil sheen
Bandar Seri Begawan - An oil sheen was discovered two days ago roughly two to five kilometres offshore from Berakas Beach and is now under control, thanks to the prompt action by the Brunei Shell Petroleum Co Sdn Bhd (BSP), their contractors and government agencies including the Energy Department at the Prime Minister's Office as well as the Marine Police.
Oil sheen can be caused by an oil spill settling on top of the water as a thin layer. This particular incident is -suspected to be caused by a discharge from a third-party vessel of some sort.
While the source of the oil sheen is yet to be ascertained, BSP along with the respective government agencies have managed to mitigate the situation in a swift manner, working from a command post at Tungku Beach, which the Minister of Energy at the Prime Minister's Office, Pehin Datu Singamanteri Colonel (Rtd) Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Awg Hj Mohd Yasmin bin Hj Umar visited yesterday.
In an interview with the Borneo Bulletin yesterday morning, the Managing Director of BSP Ken Marnoch said, "At 10 o'clock yesterday morning ( January 9) the Ministry of Defence and the Marine Police reported an oil sheen offshore near to Berakas Beach.
"After receiving the report, BSP began working to understand and ascertain exactly what it was while checking the beaches and talking to some fishermen who confirmed they saw an oil sheen while on their fishing trip.
"BSP has no operations in this area, no platforms or facilities. We have one gas pipeline that conies in here from Champion Oil Field to the power plants in Bandar, but it's a gas pipeline.
"We checked and there were no operational upsets or issues and nothing that would cause us to suspect a problem with the pipe. However, our responsibility is to proactively and prudently prevent problems, whether it is BSP's oil or not."
The oil sheen, with a volume of 0.16 cubic Metres, has been classified as a "tier one spill", the least severe tier by the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCOP).
"When you've got something of that volume close to shore and based on previous experiences, the computer models may say it will go offshore but when its that close, the computer models are never accurate hence we have to assume the worst and be prepared to deal with that."
With regards to the actions taken, he said, "We started checking the beaches yesterday afternoon and observed if there was any oil on the beaches while predicting where the oil sheen might hit on shore. We also deployed our oil spill response vessels, taking samples of the oil to find out where it came from and conduct further investigation."
When asked about their working location, the Managing Director of BSP said, "Looking at where the oil sheen was on the first day, we predicted that it would reach Tungku Beach if it hits shore overnight. Hence, we deployed one of our vessels overnight to have a buoy track the sheen. It also mechanically disperse it, which essentially means having to sail through it and break it up."
He explained that through mechanical dispersion, vessels sail through the oil and mix it up with water, causing its lighter and more volatile components to evaporate faster. Ken Marnoch also revealed that the sheen has become significantly smaller compared to its original size.
"It's still relatively close to shore so we are keeping track and scouting along the beach to see if anything has landed on shore."
Speaking on the test results conducted on the sheen, he said that preliminary results show it is not crude oil, but rather something that has been processed.
"The oil type on the sheen is unknown but it is definitely not from our operations. Most likely, it might have leaked from a third party vessel. We can conduct more testing to establish the oil type found but since it has deteriorated, it will be quite difficult to do so."
Ken Marnoch assured that they are monitoring the situation and should the sheen manage to somehow reach the shore, they are prepared to respond to such an occurrence.
"We are also here to do a 'litter' clean-up exercise on the beaches and take advantage of the resources we have from BSP, Mashhor, SKS and Megamas along with the Marine Department to prevent any environmental issues.
The non-government organisation (NGO) called the 'Beach Bunch' will also be working with them and use this mishap as an opportunity to spruce up the beaches.
The Minister of Energy at the Prime Minister's Office visited the Tungku Beach command post yesterday morning and shared his thoughts with the Borneo Bulletin.
"Brunei Shell has done a very good job. The NOSCOP (National Oil Spill Contingency Plan) was only activated this morning, but Brunei Shell has been handling and continuously briefing me since yesterday.
"They have kept me updated and I am very happy with the work done. BSP has gone beyond the call of duty. The issue here is the source of this oil sheen.
"For now, we know that it comes from a refined product, which means it could have been from Moil, diesel oil or any source of tank cleaning and safety cleaning or a passing vessel.
"We should take this incident very seriously as people are discharging by-products of oil with no proper procedure. This is against the law in Brunei but we need to really enforce this."
He also commented on the discovery of rubbish on the beach and praised Shell for not only volunteering to deal with the situation but for also helping to clean up the beaches.
The minister also acknowledged and thanked the Beach Bunch for having "responded very well" to this. He assured the public that there is nothing to worry about in regards to the oil sheen.
Touching once more on the issue of litter, he said, "Every individual has the responsibility to keep Brunei clean and attractive whilst keeping pollution away from our beloved country "Directly, my message is this: Whether it is personal or industrial rubbish, please do not litter," he concluded.
--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin