Shell spills over 26,000 barrels of oil in 13 months

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Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, spilled in excess of 26,411 barrels of oil in 13 month period, January 2012 to January 2013.

At an average oil price of $112/barrel in 2012, according to US-based, Energy Information Administration, EIA, the volume spilled could have been sold for about $2.96million or N443.71million at ex exchange rate of $1 to N150. The amount is enough to fund a major infrastructure project in Nigeria.

Data posted on the Anglo-Dutch oil giant’s Nigerian unit website,, showed that the volume of spill resulted from about 201 incidents in the period under review.

A further look at the data also revealed that the majority of the cases were as a result of sabotage and crude theft o0r 144 incidents, while about 55 of them were from operational mishaps. However, the causes of two of the spill incidents, which occurred in June, are as yet to be determined, YTD.

Spill Data
From the data, whereas sabotage and theft accounted for 75.4 percent of the spills, while operational reasons accounted for more than 20 percent.

However, the Wikipedia on its website stated that oil spills in Nigeria “occur due to a number of causes, including: corrosion of pipelines and tankers (accounting for 50% of all spills), sabotage (28%), and oil production operations (21%), with 1% of the spills being accounted for by inadequate or non-functional production equipment.

“The largest contributor to the oil spill total, corrosion of pipes and tanks, is the rupturing or leaking of production infrastructures that are described as, “very old and lack regular inspection and maintenance.
“A reason that corrosion accounts for such a high percentage of all spills is that as a result of the small size of the oilfields in the Niger Delta, there is an extensive network of pipelines between the fields, as well as numerous small networks of flowlines—the narrow diameter pipes that carry oil from wellheads to flowstations—allowing many opportunities for leaks. In onshore areas most pipelines and flowlines are laid above ground. Pipelines, which have an estimate life span of about fifteen years, are old and susceptible to corrosion. Many of the pipelines are as old as twenty to twenty-five years.

“Even Shell admits that “most of the facilities were constructed between the 1960s and early 1980s to the then prevailing standards. SPDC would not build them that way today.”

“Sabotage is performed primarily through what is known as “bunkering”, whereby the saboteur attempts to tap the pipeline. In the process of extraction sometimes the pipeline is damaged or destroyed. Oil extracted in this manner can often be sold,” it concluded

Data outline

Other issues captured in the data under the environment and society section also indicated the clean up status that is, whether Shell was able to recover any oil from the spill; comments on when the company planned to clean up the residual impacted areas or if it had already; photographs of the spill; and the Joint investigative team, JIV report.

The JIV Report, which often runs into many pages, usually contained more detailed information on each spill, and the discoveries made by the JIV team. However, in some cases not all the members of the team, which included the Host Community; Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR; National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA; State Ministry of Environment, SME; Nigeria Police; and SPDC. Also, there were no explanations as to why one or more of the parties did not sign the report after the conclusion of the investigations.

There are also some cases where the JIV recommended for further works due to residual impact at the incident site, even when in some cases there are no recorded impact to the environment in terms of structures, economic trees, ponds etc.

But some of the consequences of oil spills as recorded by Wikipedia, is that “oil spillage has a major impact on the ecosystem into which it is released and may constitute ecocide.

Other consequences include loss of mangrove forests, depletion of fish populations, and water hyacinth invasion and a host of others.

Specifically the online encyclopedia also maintained that “Spills in populated areas often spread out over a wide area, destroying crops and aquacultures through contamination of the groundwater and soils. The consumption of dissolved oxygen by bacteria feeding on the spilled hydrocarbons also contributes to the death of fish. In agricultural communities, often a year’s supply of food can be destroyed instantaneously.

“Because of the careless nature of oil operations in the Delta, the environment is growing increasingly uninhabitable. People in the affected areas complain about health issues including breathing problems and skin lesions; many have lost basic human rights such as health, access to food, clean water, and an ability to work.”

Shell response to spills

Despite recording the highest incidents and the highest volume of spills in Nigeria’s petroleum industry operations, Shell on its website maintained that it was “committed to minimising oil spills to the environment and to cleaning up all spills in the Niger Delta when they occur, as fast as possible, no matter what their cause.”

It also noted that it had “publicly reported oil spill statistics annually since 1995, and this website further enhances transparency by recording as fully as possible every spill that happens from our facilities as soon as it is possible to get accurate information.

“We work hard to reduce the number and volume of operational spills, which are under our control i.e. spills due to corrosion, human error and equipment failure,” while also tracking “the progress of our spill response from when we learn about the leak to when clean-up is completed and signed off.”

Shell went on to outline how it responds to spills, saying, “SPDC’s operators continuously monitor for leaks and respond to anomalies. In addition, any reports, either by community surveillance teams under contract to SPDC or by the public, are responded to immediately. SPDC first shuts down the flow of oil to the leak before steps are taken to verify other details about the incident in preparation for the response, which starts with containment. By immediately shutting down pipelines or flowlines that are damaged and containing the spills, we minimize the damage to the environment.

“To provide transparency with respect to the cause and consequence of the spill, a team including relevant government agencies and SPDC is accompanied by representatives of impacted communities when they visit the site, as quickly as possible after the leak occurs. This Joint Inspection Visit, or JIV for short, determines the spread, the volume and the cause of the spill.

“The government agencies include the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), the relevant State Ministry of the Environment and the Police. After the JIV, SPDC’s spill response team makes the necessary repairs and recovers as much of the spilled oil as possible. This is called the clean-up.

“After the clean-up, there can still be residual oil that has soaked into the soil, or oil that is sticking to vegetation. A post clean-up inspection, involving representatives from the same parties listed for JIVs, assesses whether the site needs further remediation to comply with international standards. If remediation is not required, then the spill site can be certified clean and the incident closed out.

“Remediation is a longer term process aimed at returning the site to its previous state. There are several ways to achieve international standards of restoration depending on whether the spill is on Land or Swamp terrain.

“Three methods of Remediation are in use on Land – Remediation by Enhanced Natural Attenuation (RENA), Remediation by Stabilization / Solidification and Low Temperature Thermal Desorption. The RENA technique is the predominant method in use and may be applied in-situ (treating the soil on site) or ex-situ (removing the soil to be cleaned elsewhere and returned site).

Crude theft and pipeline vandalism

The Pipelines and Products Marketing Company, PPMC, a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, recently decried that  “The nation is losing huge amount of money to the spate of vandalism across the country, both on crude theft and refined products.”

It added that “over N90billion was lost to crude oil theft against N10billion lost to refined products stolen in 2011. In 2012 alone, stealing of crude oil through pipelines reduced to N 42billion, while products theft increased to N20billion.”

Last November, US-based, International Energy Agency, IEA, reported that Nigeria was losing about $7billion annually to oil theft, adding that theft and sabotage often led to pipeline damage, and caused oil firms to cut output.

The IEA said, “Flooding and large-scale theft of crude drove Nigerian oil output to the lowest level for more than two years in October 2012. Oil production in the country fell to 1.95 million barrels per day in October, with production in recent months hovering between two million and 2.5 million barrels per day. The drop from September to October was around 110,000 bpd, leaving Nigerian production at the lowest level in around two and half years.

“By early November 2012, production levels were recovering, with export schedules showing increased volumes for December. It was enough to keep the country as Africa’s top producer ahead of Angola at 1.79 million bpd, but the drop comes amid growing warnings that the country must take action to avoid stagnant output in the future.”

Expressing concern over the develop0mentr, President Goodluck Jonathan said, “The unacceptable rising incidences of crude oil theft must be tackled frontally. Considering the direct adverse implication of the activities of crude oil theft on our national economy, I expect the Chief of Naval Staff and other service chiefs to immediately go to work to urgently bring the issue of crude oil theft to an end.”

The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, followed this up with a “high-powered security meeting” held with the service chiefs in May 2012, in Lagos. The meeting “discussed how crude oil theft would become history in Nigeria, using a special task force,” she said.

She added that “In the last six months, the number of oil theft on Nigerian water had been on the high side. The meeting with stakeholders in the industry and service chiefs was to address the security lapses in the oil and gas industry. About $5billion was spent in the last one year on pipeline repairs.”

But nothing much had changed since then with regard to checking the menace of pipeline vandalism. Instead, even the security monitors are now regarded as big suspects in the huge business scam.

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