A joint investigation team comprising regulators, communities, independent observers and SPDC found that this incident occurred as a result of unknown persons installing a valve to steal crude oil from the line.

SPDC has repaired the valve point and removed six other crude oil theft connections in its continuing efforts to maintain the integrity of the line. Also, the 24” TNP, which was shut down in a precautionary response to the fire on the 28”TNP has been reopened for production.

In a statement today, the Managing Director of SPDC and Country Chair Shell Companies in Nigeria, Mutiu Sunmonu said: “Suggestions that we reacted slowly to the fire and spill are false.

At the earliest opportunity, we quickly mobilised teams to respond to a crude theft spill on the 28” TNP on June 10 and the explosion and fire on June 19. We conducted an assessment of the risks and decided, with the support of the JTF to enforce a restriction of access to the site for safety reasons. Our response and the actions we took at Bodo West were in the best interest of lives and the environment.”

SPDC has also dismissed suggestions that the TNP is not safe to operate. The line is operated in line with the company’s Pipeline Integrity Management System (PIMS), ensuring regular inspection and maintenance. The dominant cause of failures on the TNP has been third party damage resulting from sabotage (hacksaw cuts, drilled holes, etc) and illegal crude theft. In the past three years, a total of 25 leaks have been recorded on the facility – 23 of which were due to sabotage and two operational pinhole leaks.

Integrity assessments including Long Range Ultrasonic Test (LRUT) surveys, Cathodic Protection (CP) surveys, and chemical injection have been periodically performed on the pipelines. Also, SPDC has always made use of the opportunity presented during sabotage/crude theft point leak repairs to carry out on-the-spot coating and internal checks to confirm the integrity of the pipeline and coating.

Mr. Sunmonu said: “Shutting down the pipeline as has been suggested is not the answer. Our ability and competence to safely operate the pipeline has never been in doubt. The only way to ensure the TNP operates optimally without being shutdown regularly for repairs is to stop the thriving crude theft activities on both the 24” and 28” streams. All the data from the interventions and assessments in the pipeline integrity assessment process currently confirm that the pipelines are healthy and fit for service. Anyone who wants to see the information can log on to our spills website www.shellnigeria.com/spills.

Mr. Sunmonu referred to the reported arrest of some employees of an SPDC service contractor on suspicion of crude theft on the TNP, and said: “We continue to cooperate with the JTF in the investigations. We have confidence that the arrested persons shall be treated in line with the principle of presumption of innocence and hope for a speedy and transparent dispensation of justice

He added: “As we have stated previously, crude theft has severe consequences lasting far beyond our lifetime. I have a personal stake in this tragedy having spent nearly all my adult and working life in the Niger Delta. The trend of crude theft will result in long-lasting damage to the wellbeing of present and future generations. All stakeholders who are genuinely interested in seeing this problem curtailed should join hands and stop this crime against the people and the environment of the Niger Delta.”