Illegal refining in Ogoniland, Rivers State

Third party interference caused close to 90% of the number of spills of more than 100 kilograms from The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited operated Joint Venture (SPDC JV) pipelines in 2017.

Security in the Niger Delta

Security in parts of the Niger Delta remains a major concern with persisting incidents of criminality, kidnapping and vandalism 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.

Operations at the SPDC JV’s Forcados Oil Terminal (FOT) was disrupted until late May 2017 while repairs to the export line were completed after three sabotage incidents in 2016. This resulted in loss of revenue, particularly for domestic producers who rely on the FOT for export.

Facilities operated by both indigenous and international oil and gas companies continue to be vandalised by attacks and other illegal activities such as crude oil theft. This led to lower oil and gas production in 2016 particularly for indigenous producers and incidents of environmental contamination. The consequences also included a loss of revenue for the Federal Government of Nigeria and disruptions to gas supply to power electricity for industry, businesses and public-sector services.

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. We also continue to engage with the government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), 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.

Spills from Third-party Interference

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. 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.

Crude oil theft on the pipeline network resulted in a loss of about 9,000 barrels of oil a day (bbl/d) in 2017, which is more than the approximate 6,000 bbl/d in 20161 but less than 25,000 bbl/d in 2015. The number of sabotage-related spills in 2017 increased to 62 compared to 482 in 2016 but less than 94 in 2015. The increase in 2017 can in part be explained by the militant-induced shutdown of the Forcados export terminal in 2016, which reduced opportunities for third party interference.

This demonstrates that continued air and ground surveillance and action by government security forces to prevent crude oil theft remains necessary. Since 2012, SPDC has removed more than 950 illegal theft points.

Spills from Operations

A key priority for Shell remains to achieve the goal of no spills from its 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. Regrettably, in addition to spills caused by criminal activity there were nine operational spills of more than 100 kilograms in volume from Shell Companies in Nigeria facilities during 2017, three of which were from pipelines/flowlines infrastructure (lowest in recent years). This number is one more than the eight spills in 2016.

In 2017, the total volume of oil spilled from operational incidents was approximately 0.1 thousand tonnes, a reduction of approximately 70% on the 2016 figure. The volume reduction and fewer spills from pipelines/flowlines can be attributed to continued progress on preventing operational spills, such as preventive maintenance of pipelines and routine inspections.

Prevention of Spills

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 pipelines and flowlines. One hundred and eighty- eight kilometers and forty kilometers of flow lines and pipelines respectively were installed in 2017 bringing the total distance of flow lines and pipelines replaced over the last six years to approximately 1,230 kilometers.

SPDC continues to undertake initiatives to prevent and minimise spills caused by theft and sabotage of its facilities in the Niger Delta. In 2017, we 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.

We continue to sustain our regime of daily over-flights of the pipeline network areas to identify any new spill incidents or activities. We have also installed state-of-the-art high definition cameras to a specialised helicopter that greatly improves the surveillance of our assets and have implemented anti-theft protection mechanisms on key infrastructure.

SPDC has collaborated 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, 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 of the Briefing Notes..

Spill Response, Clean-up and Remediation

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 of representatives from SPDC, regulators, government security agencies, state governments and communities; sometimes with local NGOs invited 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 the 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. 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.

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. The key to the process is providing the microbes with the nutrients they need to perform optimally.

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 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. An independent scientific advisory panel, the Niger Delta Panel, was set up for this purpose.

Based on input from the Panel, SPDC has implemented a Standard for the Management, Investigation & Remediation of Soil & Groundwater Contamination, that came into effect in January 2016. The Standard is a dynamic document which will be further updated with new knowledge deriving from ongoing remediation improvement initiatives.

This includes the development of Risk Based Screening Levels (RBSLs) for the Niger Delta, guidance on Management and Adaptive Monitoring of Mangrove Habitats in the Niger Delta, and results from pilot-scale trials of biosurfactants, enzymes and sorbent products which have been tested for their ability to enhance the bioremediation and biodiversity recovery process.

In 2017, SPDC launched new initiatives, such as a Niger Delta biodiversity strategy and a toolkit which provides guidance on restoring mangroves that will help to strengthen its remediation and rehabilitation efforts.

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 on all spills in its areas of operation online. The oil spills website went live in 2011.

In 2017, 92 sites were remediated and certified (out of 251 identified for this work), with 32 in Ogoniland. During 2017, 84 new sites requiring remediation were identified, of which eight are in Ogoniland. In total, there are 243 oil spill sites that require remediation.

1 - Data for 2016 is distorted due to the shutdown of production into Forcados following the militant attacks.
2 - Including figures from Forcados incidents in 2016.

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 resources and strengthen Nigerian contracting capacity.