KUWAIT: Kuwait Oil Company declared a “state of emergency” Monday over an oil spill on land, in an incident decried by environmental activists as a “recurring problem” in the state. The emergency was sparked by an “oil leak in the west of the country”, the state-owned company said in a statement, as videos posted by Kuwaiti media showed a gushing pipe surrounded by a large slick of oil.
“No injuries have occurred as a result of the leak and production has not been affected,” company spokesman Qusai Al-Amer was quoted as saying, adding that no toxic fumes had been reported. The leak “occurred on land but not in a residential area”, he later told AFP. Teams have been dispatched to determine the source of the leak and contain the incident, Amer said, declining to give the exact location or the extent of the spill.
Kuwait is a major oil-producing country where nearly 90 percent of government revenues come from oil. The key member within the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is currently producing about 2.7 million barrels per day. Kuwait Oil Company has previously reported oil leaks in its fields in 2020 and 2016. Kuwait had two oil slicks off its shores in August 2017, including one that was 1.6 km long. Experts said the other spill, close to a joint Saudi-Kuwaiti oil field, may have released up to 35,000 barrels of crude.
Kuwaiti environmental activist Khalid Al-Hajery said the extent of damage from Monday’s oil leak remains largely unclear but decried non-compliance with environmental protocol. “The oil pollution we constantly see in the air, land and sea proves that the oil industry is not sufficiently serious when it comes to protecting the environment,” said Hajery, who is the chairman of the Green Line Environmental Group, a non-governmental organization. “We are facing a recurring problem due to leniency and non-compliance with environmental and safety standards,” he told AFP, criticizing Kuwait’s Environment Public Authority for “not dealing firmly with the oil sector”.
Kuwaiti oil expert AbdulSamee Bahbahani said the leak appears to stem from an abandoned oil well, citing images circulating on social media networks. “I think the well was closed improperly, which led to erosion of the pipes and the cement cover, as well as an increase in pressure,” he said, explaining the reason for the oil gush and warning that a spark could ignite a fire. In 1991, during the first Gulf War, retreating Iraqi forces set fire to hundreds of Kuwaiti oil wells in blazes that took months to extinguish. – AFP