Boats and a barge carrying tanks filled with stolen or 'bunkered' crude oil hide among mangrove trees in the Niger Delta

Security in the Niger Delta

Security in the Niger Delta remains a major concern with persisting incidents of criminality, threats from militant elements, violent host community agitations and most recently, offshore piracy. Crude oil theft and related damage to oil and gas facilities in particular continue to present significant security concerns. Oil and Gas operations in parts of the region are severely impacted by these criminal activities. Armed robbery and kidnapping for ransom are also ongoing threats.

The safety of staff and contractors in Nigeria remains a top priority – Shell Nigeria closely monitors the security situation and continues to take all necessary measures to ensure safety and continues to actively implement the Voluntary Principles of Security and Human Rights (VPSHR).

Spills from Theft and Operations

Theft of crude oil on the pipeline network was 25,000 barrels of oil per day (bbl/d) in 2015, which is less than the 37,000 bbl/d in 2014. The number of sabotage-related spills declined to 93 incidents compared with 139 in 2014. In 2015, the decrease in theft and spills was also in part due to divestments in the Niger Delta. However, theft and sabotage are still the cause of 85% of spills from SPDC JV pipelines.

A key priority for Shell globally is to achieve the goal of no spills. Regrettably, in addition to spills caused by criminal activity there were 16 operational spills of more than 100kg in volume from SCiN facilities during 2015. This number is less than the 38 spills in 2014, partly due to divestments but also reflecting continued progress on preventing operational spills. The total volume of oil spilled in operational incidents also fell to 0.2 thousand tonnes from 0.3 thousand tonnes in 2014.


To reduce the number of operational spills, the SPDC JV is focused on implementing its ongoing work programme to appraise, maintain and replace key sections of pipeline. Forty-two kilometers (km) of flow lines and 12km of pipelines were installed in 2015 bringing the total distance of pipelines replaced over the last four years to more than 900km.

In 2015 we sustained surveillance efforts on the SPDC JV pipeline network to ensure that spills are discovered and responded to as quickly as possible. There are also regular over-flights to detect new theft points and we implemented anti-theft protection mechanisms on key equipment.

In 2014, the SPDC JV signed a series of agreements with communities in Ogoniland – which has seen some of the highest rates of theft in recent years – using the Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) model. Under these GMoUs the SPDC JV provides funding to support unarmed community patrols which report incursions and suspicious activity directly to the security forces.

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. The principal NGO coalition in the Niger Delta, the National Coalition on Gas Flaring and Oil Spills in the Niger Delta (NACGOND), is invited to join joint investigation visits (JIVs), by which the cause and extent of oil spills is assessed. SPDC JV is also the only oil and gas company in Nigeria to publish data on all spills in its areas of operation online.

Spill Response

When a leak is identified, production is suspended and efforts made to contain any spilled oil. In line with government regulations, a JIV team visits the spill site to establish the cause and volume of oil spilt. The team is led by the operating company and includes representatives of the regulatory bodies, police, the state government, NGOs and impacted communities.

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, as stipulated by Nigerian law. Once clean-up and remediation are completed, the work is inspected, approved and certified by regulators.

In total, 133 new spill sites requiring remediation were identified in 2015, of which 23 were in Ogoniland. Of the total of 305 sites identified for remediation and certification at the start of 2015, 184 have been remediated and certified. Fifty-five of these sites were in Ogoniland (representing a net reduction of 29% in certified sites in that area during 2015). Nevertheless, access by clean-up teams to identified sites in parts of the Ogoniland continues to be restricted by local communities in some cases.

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More In Briefing Notes


The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited Joint Venture (SPDC JV) carried out exploration and production operations in Ogoniland from the 1950s to the early 1990s. Operations ceased in 1993 following a rise in violence, threats to staff and attacks on facilities. The SPDC JV has produced no oil or gas in Ogoniland since then.

Nigerian Content Development

Shell Companies in Nigeria (SCiN) are committed to the development of the Nigerian content of its business as part of its contribution to the sustainable development of the Niger Delta and Nigeria as a whole.