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Spill prevention and response

Fr Edward Obi (photo)

External opinion

“In the last three years, NACGOND has engaged in mutually respectful dialogue with Shell, for the purpose of advocating positive action to redress the negative impacts of the oil and gas industry on the Niger Delta environment. NACGOND believes that it is better to engage than not, and to influence change from around the discussion table. This engagement, we believe, has yielded some important results already.

Apart from regular meetings that provide the space for frank exchange between us, and their active participation in NACGOND events, Shell now publishes its spills in real time. Our engagement has also led to NACGOND being admitted to all JIVs as observers with the right to publish their observations independently. This is important because inclusive and transparent JIV processes are key to restoring trust in communities. But the achievement we are most proud of is the ongoing mediation between Shell and representatives of the Bodo community in Rivers State. This process, aided by the Dutch Foreign Ministry, is leading to clean-up and restoration of previously polluted sites in that community.

NACGOND congratulates Shell on these strides, but believes that they can, and should, do more to invest their gains in, and uplift, the region economically.”

Fr Edward Obi
National Coordinator, NACGOND, Port Harcourt, Nigeria

Pipelines traversing Ogoniland have been subjected to some of the highest rates of oil theft and sabotage in recent years. Improved access is now making it possible for SPDC to enhance security measures in partnership with local communities and to develop a more comprehensive picture of spill sites requiring clean-up.

In 2014, Ogoni communities took direct responsibility for monitoring oil theft along the sections of the Trans Niger Pipeline (TNP) that traverse through their communities. The pipeline transports crude oil through Ogoniland to the Bonny Export Terminal and has been heavily impacted by theft in recent years. The SPDC joint venture (SPDC JV) signed a series of agreements with Ogoni communities, under which SPDC provides funding to support unarmed community patrols. The patrols report pipeline incursions and suspicious activity directly to the security forces.

SPDC continued to work with communities and civil society to build greater trust in spill response and clean-up processes. Representatives of the principal NGO coalition in the Niger Delta, called the National Coalition on Gas Flaring and Oil Spills in the Niger Delta (NACGOND), are invited to join all Joint Investigation Visits. These visits assess the cause and extent of oil spills (see External opinion). SPDC also remains the only oil and gas company in the Niger Delta to publish all its spills data on an external website.

Since deteriorating security conditions forced SPDC to withdraw from Ogoniland in 1993 there have been difficulties in cleaning up spills along those sections of the TNP that traverses the region. In recent years, SPDC has made significant progress in those areas for which it has direct responsibility for clean-up as operator (see Spills and response data). However, this is taking place while spills caused by theft and sabotage are continuing. Concerted action led by government and supported by communities will be crucial to driving wider, sustainable progress.

Small boat carrying barrels, Niger Delta, Nigeria (photo)
During 2014, SPDC has strengthened
its efforts to tackle the issue of
oil theft and sabotage.
Niger Delta, Nigeria.

In 2011, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) published Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland. The report called on the Nigerian government, oil and gas companies and communities to put an end to all forms of oil contamination and to begin a comprehensive clean-up of the region. The SPDC JV has initiated action on each of the recommendations that apply to it and remains firmly committed to using the UNEP report as an opportunity to drive wider improvements on the ground.

In July 2014, Nigeria’s Minister of Petroleum initiated a working group, led by the Federal Government, to speed up implementation of all UNEP’s recommendations. SPDC supports this initiative and hopes that it will deliver the governance structures needed for disbursement of the environmental restoration fund on which wider clean-up of Ogoniland is heavily dependent. SPDC is committed to
contributing its share of the fund once those
structures are in place.

Spills and response data

Theft and sabotage were the cause of 75% of spills from the SPDC JV pipelines in 2014. There were 139 spills as a result of recorded theft and sabotage incidents over the year, compared with 157 in 2013. However, there has been a 42% reduction in theft related production shutdowns, in part reflecting improvements to SPDC’s response procedures, such as removing multiple theft points during a single response operation.

A key priority for Shell globally is to achieve the goal of no operational spills. Regrettably, in 2014 there were 37 operational spills from the SPDC JV network, with 0.3 thousand tonnes of spill volume. This compares to 30 operational incidents and 0.4 thousand tonnes of spill volume in 2013. To reduce the number of operational spills, the SPDC JV continues to work to maintain and replace sections of pipeline and other infrastructure, installing 132 km of new pipeline during the year.

There was further progress on clean-up: of the 303 spill sites identified at the beginning of 2014, 194 (64%) had been remediated and independently certified by the end of the year. More than half of the backlog was in Ogoniland where 125 additional sites were identified in 2013 after years of restricted access to the region.