Illegal refining in Ogoniland, Rivers State


Volatile security situation

  • Security in parts of the Niger Delta remains a major concern with persisting incidents of criminality, kidnapping and sabotage as well as onshore and offshore piracy.
  • Although there has been no damage to key oil and gas infrastructure caused by militant activity since November 2016, the security situation remains volatile in this region of the country.

Disruption to oil and gas production

  • Facilities operated by both indigenous and international oil and gas companies continue to be affected by attacks and other illegal activities such as crude oil theft.
  • This led to disruptions to oil and gas production in 2018 particularly for indigenous producers and incidents of environmental contamination.
  • Disruption to production also impacted revenue for the Federal Government of Nigeria and to gas supply to power electricity for industry, businesses and public-sector services.

Staff and contractor safety

  • The safety of staff and contractors in Nigeria remains the top priority.
  • Shell Companies in Nigeria aim to mitigate security risks that may impact people, the environment and assets – thus operations are carried out only where it is safe to do so.
  • We continue to deploy in-country expertise to mitigate security risks around our operations.

Engagement with stakeholders

  • We also continue to engage with the government and non- governmental organisations, as well as local communities, to help promote human rights and a peaceful and safe operating environment.
  • Our dialogue is underpinned by ongoing community development activities.


Oil spills due to crude oil theft and sabotage of facilities (referred to as third party interference), as well as illegal refining, cause the most environmental damage from oil and gas operations in the Niger Delta.

Crude oil theft

  • Crude oil theft on the pipeline network resulted in a loss of around 11,000 barrels of oil a day (bbl/d) in 2018, which is more than the approximate 9,000 bbl/d in 2017.
  • Since 2012, SPDC has removed more than 1,160 illegal theft points.


  • The number of sabotage-related spills of more than 100 kilograms in volume in 2018 increased to 111 compared to 62 in 2017. The sharp increase in 2018 can (in part) be explained by an increase in:
    • crude theft activities in a pre-election year;
    • availability of our production facilities following repair of a major export line in 2017;
    • price of crude oil and refined products that is seen as an opportunity for more illegal refining.
  • This demonstrates that continued air and ground surveillance and action by government security forces to prevent crude oil theft and illegal refining remain necessary.

Irrespective of cause, the SPDC JV cleans up and remediates areas affected by spills originating from its facilities. The spills are sometimes made worse where there are access challenges to the incident sites to investigate and stop leaks.


Goal of no spills

  • A key priority for Shell Companies in Nigeria remain to achieve the goal of no spills from their operations.
  • No spill is acceptable, and we work hard to prevent them.
  • Shell Companies in Nigeria operate under the same standards as all other Shell-operated ventures globally.

Number and volume of spills

  • Regrettably, in addition to spills caused by criminal activity there were 15 operational spills of more than 100 kilograms in volume from Shell Companies in Nigeria facilities during 2018, which is five more than the 10 spills in 2017.
  • In 2018, the total volume of oil spilled from operational incidents was approximately 0.4 thousand tonnes, compared to 0.1 thousand tonnes in 2017.
  • A bout 90% of the volume of spilled oil can be attributed to spills from the Trans Ramos Pipeline.


Raising awareness with stakeholders

  • SPDC continues to collaborate with local community leaders, traditional rulers and state governments in the Niger Delta to implement several initiatives and partnerships to raise awareness on the negative impact of crude oil theft and illegal oil refining. For example:
    • Media engagements were held in December 2018 in the state capitals of Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers States to highlight to the public the negative impacts to people and the environment of interfering with pipelines.
    • Community-based pipeline surveillance and the promotion of alternative livelihoods through Shell’s flagship youth entrepreneurship programme, Shell LiveWIRE. More details about these initiatives can be found in the ‘Ogoniland’ section.

Integrity management system

  • To prevent the number of operational spills, the SPDC JV is focused on implementing its ongoing work programme to appraise the condition, maintain and replace key sections of pipelines and flowlines.
  • Seventy kilometers of flow lines were installed in 2018 bringing the total distance of flow lines and pipelines replaced over the last seven years to approximately 1,300 kilometers.
  • This is managed through a pipeline and flowlines integrity management system which proactively manages pipeline integrity, puts barriers in place where necessary, and recommends when and where pipeline sections should be replaced to prevent failures.
  • In 2018, this integrity management system was enhanced to manage integrity threats arising from frequent pipeline sabotage/vandalisation.

Surveillance of operations

  • SPDC continues to undertake initiatives to prevent and minimise spills caused by theft and sabotage of its facilities in the Niger Delta.
  • In 2018, SPDC sustained on-ground surveillance efforts on SPDC JV’s areas of operations, including its pipeline network, to prevent incidences of third party interference and ensure that spills are detected and responded to as quickly as possible.
  • SPDC continues to sustain its regime of daily over-flights of the pipeline network areas to identify any new spill incidents or activities.
  • SPDC has also installed state-of-the-art high definition cameras to a specialised helicopter that greatly improves the surveillance of the SPDC JVs assets and has implemented anti-theft protection mechanisms on key infrastructure, such as wellheads and manifolds.


Response and investigation

  • 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 from SPDC, regulators, government security agencies, state governments and communities; sometimes with local NGOs invited as observers.

Clean-up, remediation and inspection

  • 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.
  • In the case of operational spills, it also pays compensation to people and communities impacted by the spill.
  • At the beginning of 2018, 202 sites required remediation. During the year, 116 sites were remediated and 46 certified while 148 new sites requiring remediation were identified. At the end of 2018, there are 234 oil spill sites that require remediation.

Remediation practices

  • SPDC’s remediation practices are compliant with the Environmental Guidelines and Standards for the Petroleum Industry in Nigeria (EGASPIN), Revised Edition 2002.
  • The EGASPIN criteria are based upon approaches adopted previously by the Dutch Government and supports use of Risk-Based Corrective Action, as provided by the American Society for Testing and Materials.
  • EGASPIN provides for the management and remediation of contaminated land while certification of the satisfactory completion of remediation is performed for all sites by the relevant regulator, based on results of analytical laboratory testing.

Bioremediation methodology

  • SPDC has researched and adopted techniques for cleaning up oil spills that SPDC believes to be the most effective for the soil and climate conditions in the equatorial heat of the Niger Delta.
  • Bioremediation using land farming techniques is a well-practiced technique used in the Niger Delta, and elsewhere, to bioremediate crude oil contamination in soils with the objective of restoring the land to conditions acceptable to human health and the environment.
  • It stimulates the natural microbial processes that break down and use the carbon rich oil contamination as a source of food and energy, ultimately leading to its removal.
  • Bioremediation is an internationally and nationally recognized methodology and widely accepted by the remediation community around the world and often advocated by regulators such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency in the USA and the Environment Agency in the UK.
  • Adoption of this method also has wider positive impacts, for example in developing local expertise and generating employment.
  • Bioremediation is not the only technique employed by SPDC and other technologies are utilised where appropriate.


Since 2012, SPDC has worked with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to assess how best to approach the remediation and rehabilitation of oil spill sites within SPDC’s areas of operation in the Niger Delta and to assess the company’s procedures for undertaking such work.

Niger Delta Panel

  • An independent scientific advisory panel, the Niger Delta Panel, was set up for this purpose and based on their input, SPDChas strengthened its internal capacity in remediation and made improvements to oil spill response.
  • A remediation standard was developed to manage, investigate and remediate soil and groundwater contamination that came into effect in January 2016 and will be further updated with new knowledge deriving from ongoing remediation improvement initiatives.
  • They also helped SPDC to develop a biodiversity conservation strategy and provided input and support for SPDC’s move towards implementation of a risk-based approach to oil spill remediation in the Niger Delta.
  • SPDC’s implementation of a risk-based approach launched a process involving regulators from the Nigerian Department of Petroleum Resources that included:
    • formation of a working group to develop a set of recommended risk- based screening levels for soil and groundwater in the Niger Delta,
    • a capacity development programme for regulators, and
    • a collaborative pilot test of the risk-based approach.
  • The next stage of collaboration between SPDC and IUCN is the formation of the Niger Delta Biodiversity Technical Advisory Group, along with several other partners, that will monitor the sites that have been remediated.

Communities and civil society

  • 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 of the spill is not sabotage/third party tampering.
  • In certain instances, some NGOs such as the National Coalition on Gas Flaring and Oil Spills in the Niger Delta (NACGOND), have also participated in the JIVs.
  • SPDC was the first oil and gas company in Nigeria that voluntarily published data, such as JIV reports on all spills in its areas of operation online. The oil spills website went live in 2011.

More In Briefing Notes


The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC) as operator of the SPDC Joint Venture (SPDC JV) carried out exploration and production operations in Ogoniland from the 1950s till the early 1990s.

Nigerian Content Development

Shell Companies in Nigeria continue to support local content, develop the country’s human resources and strengthen Nigerian contracting capacity. This is achieved through sustainable partnerships, which further the socio-economic development of the Niger Delta and Nigeria as a whole.