Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently asked questions on the UNEP environmental assessment of Ogoniland
- What are Shell’s interests in Ogoniland?
- What is the UNEP report?
- What recommendations did the UNEP report make and who is responsible for implementing it?
- Who will pay for the restoration of Ogoniland?
- What actions have been taken by SPDC?
- What progress has SPDC made in restoring the environment of Ogoniland?
- What changes has SPDC made to its oil spill remediation techniques?
- Why is it taking so long to implement the UNEP report?
- What is SPDC doing to prevent new oil pollution in Ogoniland?
- Does SPDC plan to resume operations in Ogoniland?
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 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 although one of Niger Delta’s main pipelines, the Trans-Niger Pipeline (TNP), traverses Ogoniland. Since 2012 the SPDC JV’s assets in Ogoniland have been operated by the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), the production and exploration arm of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
One of the Niger Delta’s main pipelines - the Trans-Niger Pipeline (TNP) - traverses Ogoniland. The SPDC JV also has five non-producing fields and a network of about 100 wells and associated infrastructure in the area, some of which have been vandalized by 3rd parties.
In the period following the SPDC JV’s withdrawal, the security environment in Ogoniland remained volatile and targeting of oil and gas facilities by saboteurs, oil thieves and illegal refiners continued.
In 2006 the Federal Government of Nigeria commissioned the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to carry out an environmental assessment of Ogoniland as part of a wider Ogoni reconciliation process. The SPDC JV funded the report and provided data as requested. UNEP delivered its final report to the Federal Government in August 2011.
The UNEP report highlighted significant environmental impacts from oil pollution in parts of Ogoniland relating to a variety of causes. It makes recommendations to the Federal Government of Nigeria, the oil and gas industry and communities to conduct a comprehensive cleanup of Ogoniland, restore polluted environments and take coordinated action to end to all forms of oil contamination in Ogoniland, such as illegal oil bunkering, crude theft and artisanal refining of stolen crude.
The UNEP report presented a range of operational, technical, regulatory and behavioural recommendations addressed to the Federal Government of Nigeria, oil and gas operators – including SPDC, as operator of the SPDC JV - and communities. These recommendations are aimed at restoring the environment of polluted areas of Ogoniland and addressing the causes of ongoing contamination. The report also recommended eight emergency measures relating to water contamination in areas where there was assessed to be an immediate danger to public health.
UNEP stresses that the majority of its recommendations can only be delivered through multi-stakeholder action coordinated by the Federal Government. Some of the most important recommendations on which the delivery of subsequent action depends – including the creation of an Ogoniland Environmental Restoration Authority and an Environmental Restoration Fund for Ogoniland – are directed at the Federal Government and require it to take the lead on coordinating the activities of the many stakeholders involved.
It is important to emphasise that neither the SPDC JV nor any other stakeholder is in a position to implement the entirety of UNEP’s recommendations unilaterally. As the UNEP report stated:
“Treating the problem of environmental contamination within Ogoniland merely as a technical clean-up exercise would ultimately lead to failure. Ensuring long-term sustainability is a much bigger challenge – one that will require coordinated and collaborative action from all stakeholders.”
The UNEP report recommended the creation of an Environmental Restoration Fund for Ogoniland or Ogoni Restoration Fund (ORP) with capital of USD 1 billion, to be co-funded by the Federal Government, NNPC and the SPDC JV. SPDC JV has made available the $10 million take-off fund for the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) as part of its contribution towards funding its share of the ORF. SPDC JV remains fully committed to continue supporting and contributing its share to the ORF within the appropriate framework and governance structures.
Over the last five years, SPDC has taken action on all the UNEP recommendations addressed specifically to it as operator of the SPDC JV and has completed a majority of these recommendations:
- The 15 SPDC JV sites specifically mentioned in the UNEP report have been re-assessed, and where further remediation was required, those sites have been remediated and certified by government regulators.
- SPDC has completed an inventory and physical verification of assets for de-commissioning and continues to work with its joint venture partners and the Federal Government of Nigeria to develop a decommissioning plan for these assets.
- SPDC has completed a comprehensive review of its oil spill response and remediation techniques, and made a number of improvements in line with industry best practices.
- The SPDC JV has also shown leadership by delivering the emergency measures identified by the report related to providing safe drinking water to impacted communities in collaboration with Rivers State Government.
- Contractors have been re-trained on clean up and remediation techniques and SPDC has assigned specialist supervisors to a number of project sites to ensure effective oversight and compliance
- SPDC continues to carry out regular aerial monitoring of all the joint venture’s facilities in Ogoniland, including the creeks and pipelines, to identify any new incidents or activities (such as theft and sabotage) which may result in environmental damage.
- Public access to information such as Joint Investigation Visit reports and spill incident data has been improved via a spills information web site.
SPDC is committed to cleaning up all spills from its facilities, irrespective of cause. This is equally the case in Ogoniland, despite the fact that SPDC ceased producing oil and gas there in 1993. Years of restricted access to the area created difficulties in identifying and remediating affected sites. Improved access over the last three years has enabled SPDC to make progress on identifying sites in need of remediation and verifying the condition of non-operating facilities and equipment, a crucial step in developing a decommissioning plan.
In total, 73 new spill sites requiring remediation were identified in 2016, of which nine are in Ogoniland, many as a result of crude oil theft and other criminal interference. Of the total of 270 sites identified for remediation at the start of 2016, 92 have been remediated and certified. Thirty-one of these sites were in Ogoniland (representing a net reduction of 22% in remediation sites in that area during 2016). The total number of oil spill incidents requiring remediation is 251.
In 2016 nine additional sites in need of remediation were identified within Ogoniland, many as a result of crude oil theft and other criminal interference. SPDC cleaned up, remediated and certified 31 spill sites in 2016, regardless of cause, which originated from SPDC JV pipelines and facilities in Ogoniland. Unfortunately this work is taking place in the midst of continuing high levels of sabotage, crude oil theft and illegal refining, which means that the number of spill sites requiring remediation is a dynamic figure.
In 2015, SPDC on behalf of the SPDC JV and the Bodo community signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) granting SPDC access to begin the clean-up of areas affected by two regrettable operational spills in 2008. The MOU also provided for the selection of two contractors to conduct the clean-up and to be overseen by an independent project director. International contractors for the first phase of the clean-up were mobilised to the location in September 2015, and they trained 400 Bodo youths on clean-up techniques. Unfortunately, the contractors were subsequently denied access by the community in late September 2015. In 2016, discussions continued with the Bodo community under the Bodo Mediation Initiative (BMI) to allow contractors to proceed with the clean-up but remained unresolved as of July 2017. SPDC remains fully committed to ensuring clean-up takes place and will continue to work with the BMI to implement a remediation plan for Bodo area.
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.
Bioremediation using land farming techniques is a nationally (EGASPIN) and internationally recognized methodology for reducing concentration of biodegradable contaminants. Bioremediation techniques are widely accepted by the remediation community around the world and often advocated by regulators such as USEPA in the USA and the Environment Agency in the UK.
Bioremediation has been utilized in the Niger Delta due to its availability and low impact which in the majority of cases enables us to meet the requirements of EGASPIN. Adoption of this method also has wider positive impacts, for example in developing local expertise and generating employment. It should be noted that bio-remediation is not the only technique employed by SPDC and other technologies are utilised where appropriate. Following observations made in the UNEP report on depth of remediation, greater depths of up to 6m have been achieved for soil remediation.
Since 2012, SPDC has worked with the International Union for Conservation of Nature to enhance remediation techniques and protect biodiversity at sites affected by oil spills in SPDC’s areas of operation in the Niger Delta. Based on this partnership, SPDC has launched remediation improvement initiatives to help strengthen its remediation and rehabilitation efforts.
As UNEP stated, a thorough clean-up of Ogoniland will take many years to achieve. Over the last five years, SPDC has taken action on all the UNEP recommendations addressed specifically to it as operator of the SPDC JV and has completed a majority of these recommendations. However, comprehensive implementation of UNEP’s wider recommendations will require coordinated action by all the relevant stakeholders: federal, state and local government, the oil and gas industry and communities. Regulators and civil society also have an important role to play.
SPDC JV is committed to the implementation of the UNEP Report and welcomes FGN efforts to progress its implementation, including the creation of Governing Council and Board of Trustees of the Ogoni Restoration Fund (ORF) in Aug 2016 to oversee and fund the clean-up process.
SPDC JV applauds the ground-breaking ceremony in February 2017 of the Integrated Contaminated Soil Management Centre, which will help create employment opportunities in Ogoniland and facilitate the acquisition of skills in the treatment of contaminated soils.
SPDC JV has made available the $10 million take-off fund for HYPREP as part of its contribution towards funding its share of the ORF. SPDC JV remains fully committed to continue supporting and contributing its share to the ORF within the appropriate framework and governance structures.
The SPDC JV’s entire area of operations is covered by pipeline and asset surveillance contracts both to identify and respond to the threat of third-party interference and to ensure that spills are discovered and responded to as quickly as possible. There are also regular over-flights of the pipeline network to detect new theft points, which cause the majority of spills from SPDC JV facilities. SPDC JV regularly reviews its surveillance operations in order to improve performance. For instance, a recent initiative has been acquiring a state of the art High Definition Infra-red camera attached to a specialized helicopter that greatly improves the surveillance of our assets.
Crude oil theft and illegal refining continues to be a challenge in Ogoniland with visible evidence of repeated re-contamination of remediated sites. The SPDC JV is therefore pursuing a range of initiatives to prevent and minimise the impact of theft and sabotage in Ogoniland, including community-based pipeline surveillance, awareness campaigns and alternative livelihood programmes.
In 2014, the SPDC JV signed a series of agreements with communities in Ogoniland –– 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 government security forces.
SPDC has reached nearly 150 communities in Ogoniland since it embarked on an engagement campaign in 2014 to raise awareness on the environmental devastation from pipeline vandalism and illegal crude oil refining in response to the recommendations of the UNEP Report on Ogoniland. The programme involves open-air meetings and publicity campaigns on electronic media. In 2016, SPDC collaborated with local community leaders, traditional rulers and state governments in the Niger Delta to raise awareness among youths of the environmental and health risks of interfering with pipelines. During the course of the year, engagements took place in Ogoniland with more than 40 communities in four local government areas – Khana, Gokana, Tai and Eleme.
Shell’s flagship youth entrepreneurship programme, Shell LiveWIRE, was extended to Ogoniland in 2014, with the aim of raising living standards and reducing crude oil theft through the promotion of alternative livelihoods. The pioneer set of 105 beneficiaries graduated in February 2015, and more than 70 per cent of them are now successful business owners and employers of labour. As was the case in 2015, 60 Ogoni youths were trained in entrepreneurship skills in 2016. Fifty of the trainees who succeeded in the final assessment received start-up funds for their business ideas. An Agricultural Youth Entrepreneurial Programme was also initiated in 2015 to increase youth participation in farming, the primary occupation in Ogoniland with associated economic growth.
SPDC has not produced oil and gas in Ogoniland since 1993 and has no plans to resume operations. Since 2012 the SPDC JV’s assets in Ogoniland have been operated by the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), the production and exploration arm of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).