By Udeme Akpan and Perez Brisibe
WITH the introduction of Amnesty, training and capacity building of youths in the Niger Delta, expectations were high that the development would culminate in increased peace and end to vandalism, oil theft and illegal refining in the region.
But this has not been the case. Sweetcrude investigations showed that these continue to occur. The data obtained from Shell Petroleum Development Company Limited, leading oil and gas exploration and producing company with over 500,000 barrel per day output indicated that vandalism, oil theft and illegal refining continue to occur in the Niger Delta.
For instance, in January, February, March and April, this year, Shell recorded 10, eight, seven and two oil spill cases respectively. In January, February, March and April 2017, the company had recorded six, another six, 11 and eight cases respectively. The company attributed a bulk of the cases to sabotage.
Consequently, many pipelines dedicated to oil and gas operations have been crippled. Specifically, the facilities affected included Imo River pipeline, Adibawa flow station, Okordia-Rumuekpe Pipeline, Bomu-Bonny Pipeline, Nkali – Imo River 2 Pipeline, Gbaran Well 12T Flowline, Soku Well 14S Flowline, Imo River-Ogale Pipeline, Otamiri Wells 5L/S Flowline, NunRiver-Kolocreek Pipeline, Rumuekpe-Nkpoku Pipeline, Ukpeliede Manifold and Imo River Well 31S 6’’ Flowline.
The attacks have culminated in the loss of commercial crude oil and by extension revenue to stakeholders, including Shell and the government. The company expended huge resources to rehabilitate the facilities. They also spent funds to clean the polluted environment.
In its latest report, Shell indicated that: ‘’The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC) as operator of SPDC Joint Venture (SPDC-JV) facilities is committed to operating SPDC-JV facilities in a responsible manner with due regard for the environment. When spills occur from SPDC-JV facilities in the Niger Delta we respond as quickly as possible, no matter what their cause.
‘’Oil spills due to crude oil theft and sabotage of facilities, as well as illegal refining cause the most environmental damage from oil and gas operations in the Niger Delta. Irrespective of the cause, the SPDC JV cleans up and remediates areas affected by spills originating from its facilities.
‘’A key priority for Shell is to achieve the goal of no spills from its operations. No spill is acceptable and we work hard to prevent them. Regrettably, in addition to spills caused by criminal activity there were nine operational spills of more than 100 kg in volume from Shell companies in Nigeria facilities during 2017. This number is one more than the eight spills in 2016.
‘’SPDC has publicly reported oil spill statistics annually since 1995 in the Shell sustainability report and this website further enhances transparency on spills in Nigeria from SPDC-JV facilities. It tracks the progress of our spill response from when we learn about the leak to when clean-up is completed and certified by Regulators.”
Shell stated that: ‘’When a leak is identified, production is suspended and efforts made to contain any spilled oil. We regularly test our emergency spill response procedures and capability to ensure staff and contractors can respond rapidly to an incident. In line with government regulations, a Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) team visits the spill site to establish the cause and volume of oil spilled. The team comprises representatives of SPDC, regulators, government security agencies, state governments and communities sometimes with local NGOs as observers.
‘’The SPDC JV cleans and remediates the area impacted by spills from its facilities, irrespective of cause. In the case of operational spills, it also pays compensation to people and communities impacted by the spill. Once clean-up and remediation are completed, the work is inspected, and if satisfactory, approved and certified by Federal Government of Nigeria regulator National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency.
‘’SPDC’s remediation practices are compliant with the Environmental Guidelines and Standards for the Petroleum Industry in Nigeria (EGASPIN), Revised Edition 2002 as well as other relevant international standards. EGASPIN provides for the management and remediation of contaminated land. To this end, SPDC has researched and adopted techniques for cleaning up oil spills that we believe to be the most effective for the soil and climate conditions in the equatorial heat of the Niger Delta.
‘’The SPDC JV also works with communities and civil society across the Niger Delta to build greater trust in spill response and clean-up processes. Wherever possible, local communities take part in the remedial work if the cause is not sabotage/third party tampering.”
From Akwa Ibom to Bayelsa, Rivers to Delta and from Imo to Ondo states, a recent tour of the Niger Delta states showed that the region is still faced with many environmental problems, including gas flaring, oil spill.
The Distinguished Prof. Inyang stated that: “A deep analysis should show that it would cost more than $50 billion to clean up more than 2500 sites in the entire Niger Delta, even with the recognition that there have been more spills than spill sites. It would also take more than 50 years, even if that money was available. My back-of-the-envelope estimate is that for Ogoniland sites alone, about US$6 billion are needed but risks can be reduced to tolerable levels with US$3 billion.
“So, it is quite untenable to attempt clean-up/remediation of all contaminated sites there. Technically, it is impossible to clean up all the sites in Niger Delta. A screening system that combines cost, ecological, proximal population and other rational factors should be quickly developed for use in selecting about 100-150 sites for focus.
“From my review of circumstances at some sites, about 30 per cent of the sites will simply need to be evacuated because of the risk of cumulative exposure to contaminants. Evacuation happens in other parts of the world under such circumstances.
Examples are Chernobyl, and heavy metal contaminated areas in Southeast Asia. It is exceedingly romantic to think that one will always occupy his/her native environment. That has not been the case throughout human history.”
In an interview with Swewetcrude, Prof. Akpofure Rim-Rukeh indicated that: ‘’the ecological and human impacts of oil spills are highly diverse and its effects are on a wide scale. Surface water bodies (rivers, streams and creeks) are major sources of drinking water in most oil producing communities, but today such water bodies are undrinkable.
‘’When oil spills occur in streams, rivers and lakes, it alters the quality of the water, thus making it unfit for human consumption. It has been speculated that, one barrel of crude oil can make one million barrels of water undrinkable.
‘’Fishing is a traditional occupation of the peoples.
Today, this occupation is being eroded as a result of oil spills. It is estimated that up to 40 per cent of the oil producing agricultural land is seriously contaminated with oil spills, making such size of land unproductive.”
However, many experts said that addressing the environmental problems would require the political will of the government as well as the commitment of other stakeholders.