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Spill response and prevention in Nigeria

In the Niger Delta, over the last 12 years, the total number of operational hydrocarbon spills and the volume of oil spilled from them into the environment have been significantly reduced.

Most oil spills in the Niger Delta region continue to be caused by crude oil theft, the sabotage of oil and gas production facilities, illegal oil refining, and the distribution of illegally refined products.

In 2022, the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC), as operator of the SPDC joint venture (SPDC JV, Shell interest 30%) [A], reported 10 operational spill incidents of more than 100 kilograms of crude oil, more than the 9 reported in 2021. The volume of around 0.01 thousand tonnes was less than the 0.03 thousand tonnes recorded in 2021.

[A] Unless otherwise stated, all activities reported for or as relating to SPDC in this section should be understood as SPDC acting as the operator of the SPDC JV. SPDC, as the corporate entity, owns 30% of the JV.

In 2022, about 88% of the oil spills of more than 100 kilograms from the SPDC-operated facilities were caused by the illegal activities of third parties. In 2022, the volume of crude oil spills of more than 100 kilograms caused by sabotage was around 0.6 thousand tonnes (75 incidents), compared with around 3.3 thousand tonnes (106 incidents) in 2021. The decreased number of incidents in 2022 correlates with a shutdown of production for about six months because of an unprecedented increase of crude oil theft from the Trans Niger Pipeline, which is operated by SPDC on behalf of the SPDC JV. SPDC continues to work with the government security agencies to maintain surveillance and address illegal activities of third parties, primarily along the SPDC JV pipeline and its operational areas.

By the end of 2022, a total of 311 steel cages had been installed to protect wellheads, including 38 that had been upgraded with CCTV. This compared with a total of 283 installed cages at the end of 2021. In 2022, of 732 registered attempts to breach them, 47 were successful.

Spill response and prevention in Nigeria

Spills in 2022



Number of operational spills: 10
Volume of operational spills: 10 tonnes

Average days before joint investigations commence: two days in 2022, improved from six days in 2016

Illegal theft points removed: 468 in 2022, 1,390 in total since 2016

Number of spills caused by third-party interference and other illegal activities: 75, 88% of the total

Average days to complete the recovery of surface oil: around one week in 2022, improved from 13 days in 2016

Steel cages installed to protect wellheads: 311

Volume of spills caused by third-party interference and other illegal activities: less than 600 tonnes, 99% of the total volume

Number of sites remediated: 230 in 2022, 776 in total since 2016

Breaches of steel cages in 2022: 47 out of 732 attempts

SPDC has an ongoing programme to appraise, maintain and replace key sections of pipelines and flow lines to reduce the number of operational spills. In 2022, around 27 kilometres of pipelines and flow lines were replaced.

Regardless of the cause of a spill, SPDC cleans up and remediates areas affected by spills originating from its facilities. With operational spills, it pays compensation to affected people and communities. In 2022, the time needed to complete the recovery of free-phase oil – oil that forms a separate layer and is not mixed with water or soil – remained at around one week.

SPDC continues to review its portfolio options for onshore oil in Nigeria and has reduced its licences in this area by half in the past decade.

For more detailed information on spills in Nigeria in 2022 and our response see Read more on spill prevention and response in Nigeria at

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Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited
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