Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) has confirmed it has recently begun a new phase of the clean-up and restoration of a farming area contaminated by an oil spill in the village of Rusais near Izki.
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The enhanced programme has been launched after thorough studies and an assessment of the impact of a leak, which occurred in the early 1980s, as a result of a failed check valve on a section of the Main Oil Line pipeline.
Key steps will build on earlier measures which covered surface and sub-surface work and included testing, sampling, analysis and monitoring, with 15 purposely drilled and dedicated observation wells. The work will now be upgraded to include the installation of pumping and processing equipment and the drilling of a number of recovery wells, which will be used for decontamination.
The proposed remediation work has been extensively evaluated by PDO in close consultation with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA), which fully supports proceeding.
The Company also pointed out that after the leak initially occurred, it paid agreed compensation to affected farmers as a final settlement and has taken a number of remedial actions over the years, including periodic cleaning of irrigation channels, water sampling, geochemical analysis and the intermittent provision of fresh water to affected farms.
PDO External Affairs and Value Creation Director Abdul-Amir Abdul-Hussein Al Ajmi said: “This issue is a major priority for PDO and we want to re-affirm our commitment to achieving a lasting and effective solution to the problem at Rusais.
“We take our responsibilities extremely seriously in protecting the environment and are committed to working honestly, responsibly and ethically with the communities where we operate.
“The affected farmers were compensated in 1986-87 and an agreement was signed which absolved PDO of any further liability. However, we have made attempts over the years with the local community and MECA to find a lasting and fair solution to this problem by proposing a wide range of environmental remediation measures.
“A high-level Ministerial Committee was established in 2015 and recently there have been further high-level discussions to resolve this matter amicably. The committee, led by MECA, review plans and progress on a regular basis, with the objective of restoring the land to its original condition, and complying with all rules and regulations set by MECA.
“Over the years, we have faced a number of obstacles in our attempts to resolve the situation. However, the length of time it has taken to resolve such a complex issue, which involves multiple technical challenges and diverse stakeholders, is regrettable.
“We remain committed to working with the local community and the relevant authorities to reach a lasting and satisfactory solution.”
Recently, a PDO team dug several 3.5 metre trenches into the ground on a public right of way in an attempt to trace the path of the leak and assess its potential spread underground. Once this work is completed in a couple of months, PDO will have a clearer idea about the extent and size of the contaminated near-surface layer to further enhance plans for the necessary remediation.
Other work on a deeper layer will also take place by treating and pumping off the fluids until the aquifer is restored. Several contracts have been, or are being agreed, to carry out these activities in the most effective and environmentally friendly manner.
Mr Al Ajmi said: “The operation will involve extensive work both at surface and subsurface levels.
“Overall, we are committed to protecting the environment and ensuring that all our operations and activities are performed in an environmentally sustainable manner and in accordance with Oman’s rules, regulation and laws.”
The Company also pointed out it has also offered to buy the affected land, notwithstanding the previous payment of full compensation.
Mr Al Ajmi said: “PDO welcomes any inquiries about this issue and will continue our communications with the farmers’ authorised representatives and all key authorities.”