‘That is the ultimate straw’: Gabonese activists outraged at one more oil spill by Perenco

A leak was detected on April 28 in a petroleum terminal run by the French-British petrol firm Perenco close to Port-Gentil, the financial capital of Gabon. The corporate, which has already been accused of significant environmental violations, has insisted the leak is underneath management. However our Observer says that the leak is a critical air pollution threat.  

The Cape Lopez petrol terminal, positioned a couple of kilometres north of Port-Gentil on Mandji Island, is the most important in Gabon. The location is run by Perenco, the most important producer of petrol on this central African nation. 

Late within the morning of April 28, Perenco positioned a leak in a tank in Cape Lopez containing 50,000 cubic metres of crude oil, or 300,000 barrels. 

Aerial photographs taken the morning after the spill by activist Bernard Christian Rekoula present the extent of the harm – two storage tanks are surrounded by an enormous pool of crude oil contained in a basin. A vacuum truck is roofed with oil and the Atlantic Ocean is only some metres away. 

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‘Oil spilled over an space the scale of three soccer fields’

Bernard Christian Rekoula says there’s a actual threat of air pollution.  

We first observed, on Friday morning, that there have been robust fuel fumes, of the kind produced by oil, a number of kilometres in each course from the positioning. We went to a fishing village close to Cape Lopez. The villagers advised us that they’d been evacuated round 11pm on Thursday. The electrical energy was lower they usually had been advised to not gentle fires, cigarettes or anything as a result of explosion threat.  

I flew my drone over the positioning and, from the footage, I may see that there was a faulty oil tank. You’ll be able to clearly see the place the leak is. The oil spill covers an space the scale of three soccer fields and is not less than a metre and a half to 2 metres deep.

‘No marine air pollution’ recognized, says Perenco

In a press release revealed in French on April 29, Perenco mentioned that its groups instantly began pumping however that the leak “elevated” and that the oil spilt into “two containment basins constructed for this objective.”

“The entire petrol was contained within the containment basins and no marine air pollution has been recognized at this second,” the corporate mentioned within the assertion. 

Perenco mentioned that they’d declared the scenario considered one of “pressure majeure”, which removes legal responsibility for pure catastrophes that will have an effect on enterprise.

The corporate mentioned it had referred to as on the pressure majeure clause in its contracts with a view to “safe the installations and stop any environmental harm”. The corporate additionally mentioned that there could be an investigation into what had brought about the leak. 

Rekoula, nonetheless, wasn’t satisfied by the corporate’s response:

Basically, we noticed that Perenco had put in what they name retaining partitions, that are nothing greater than mounds of sand that stand two metres excessive. However you may see from the photographs that petrol has spilled over, overflowing the containment basins. 

Opposite to the reassuring and politically appropriate messages from the director of Perenco, which had been parroted by the authorities, we sounded the alarm. It’s wet season and it’s certain that this bassin may replenish and spill into the ocean. 

On Saturday, April 30, the final director of Gabonese petrol visited the positioning on Cape Lopez. He mentioned that the “scenario was underneath management”.

However whereas the corporate and the authorities say that they’re finishing up petrol pumping operations to wash up the spilt oil, Rekoula needed to know the place the pumped petrol is being stocked, including that the “crude oil remains to be there”.

‘Perenco must be penalised’

Perenco is already being sued by a number of NGOs. The corporate was positioned underneath formal investigation in Gabon in July 2021 for air pollution and petrol harm to rivers, lakes and the ocean.  

Rekoula says that this newest incident “has simply added gasoline to the hearth”:

It’s necessary to know that this web site was constructed by Elf [Editor’s note: A French oil company which has since been merged with Total] again within the day. So the positioning is greater than fifty years previous. When Perenco purchased the positioning, they need to have carried out repairs, bringing it as much as commonplace. That wasn’t the case. As we speak, Perenco is busy blaming others. 

That is the ultimate straw. Perenco must be internationally penalised. And establishments want to assist us to get this firm to abide by worldwide requirements. 

Even when the Gabonese authorities and Perenco are compelled to confess that an incident has taken place, not less than considerably, they nonetheless don’t inform us the supply of the air pollution. Of their assertion, they talked a couple of leak, however they didn’t clarify the explanations for it. It could’t proceed like this. 

Alarm sounded in 2020 after petrol spills

Gabon is among the largest producers of petrol on the African continent, producing practically 220,000 barrels of petrol a day. 

Owned by one of many richest households in France, the Perrodo household, Perenco specialises in optimising petrol wells which have been beforehand exploited. The corporate is usually thought of opaque, with robust hyperlinks to the Gabonese authorities. 

In 2020, residents of the petrol subject close to Étimboué in western Gabon spoke out in opposition to Perenco’s practices. Images taken by residents documented quite a few oil spills. Residents together with NGOs mentioned that the corporate’s buildings had been dilapidated and poorly maintained. 

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