Spill prevention and response in Nigeria
Shell Companies in Nigeria continue their relentless focus on working to reduce the environmental impact of their oil and gas operations in the Niger Delta.
The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd (SPDC), the operator of the SPDC Joint Venture (SPDC interest 30%), is run according to the same technical standards as other Shell companies globally. SPDC is working to eliminate spills from operational activities, remediate past spills and prevent spills caused by crude oil theft, sabotage of pipelines or illegal oil refining. These illegal activities accounted for 95% of SPDC JV spill incidents in 2019.
To reduce the number of operational spills, SPDC is focused on implementing its ongoing work programme to appraise, maintain and replace key sections of pipelines and flow lines. In 2019, SPDC completed 30 kilometres of new flow lines, bringing the total to around 1,330 kilometres over the last eight years.
These efforts have significantly reduced operational spills to seven incidents and around 0.03 thousand tonnes of crude oil in 2019, compared with 15 incidents and 0.4 thousand tonnes in 2018. This represents a year-on-year reduction of more than 90% by volume.
However, the challenge of preventing spills relating to sabotage and theft by third parties remains.
In 2019, there were 156 [A] sabotage- and theft-related spills of more than 100 kilograms, up from 109 in 2018. This is due to factors such as increased availability of our production facilities after a major export line repair in 2017; crude theft activities in an election year; and the higher price of crude oil and refined products, which is seen as an opportunity for more illegal refining. Spilled volumes relating to sabotage and theft increased to around 2.0 thousand tonnes of crude oil.
We continued to implement operational improvements to shorten our response time, and improve relations with communities. There were also ongoing commitments from government agencies to tackle spills.
SPDC’s average [B] time to complete clean-up of free and/or residual spilled oil has decreased from 13 days in 2016 to seven days in 2019. For example, closer engagement with communities has helped SPDC to access spill locations more quickly, meaning, on average, joint investigations now commence within three days in 2019 compared with six days in 2016.
SPDC is working to minimise the impact of third-party incidents and spills. It works with government agencies, non-governmental organisations and communities to proactively prevent and minimise spills from illegal activity.
This work includes using simplified pipeline visuals and maps, which help to better target our response to third-party interference in our operations. Since 2017, SPDC has removed more than 523 illegal theft points. Illegal theft points are identified by daily overflights and on-the-ground inspections.
The company has also implemented anti-theft protection mechanisms, such as anti-tamper locks and steel cages for wellheads. By the end of 2019, 301 cages had been installed and around 80 more are planned for 2020 that will all come with CCTV technology. In 2019, three breaches of the cages were recorded out of 300 attempts. The volume of wellhead-related crude oil losses decreased significantly, from 30,000 barrels a day in 2016 to 1,000 barrels a day in 2019.
Regardless of the cause, SPDC cleans up and remediates areas impacted by spills that come from its facilities. In the case of operational spills, SPDC also pays compensation to communities impacted by the spill. Once the clean-up and remediation are completed, the work is inspected, and, if satisfactory, approved and certified by Nigerian government regulators.
As well as responding to recent spill incidents, SPDC continues to identify and remediate legacy spill locations. In 2019, 130 sites were remediated and 123 certified by Nigerian government regulators, compared with 116 certified and 45 remediated in 2018.
[A] In addition, there were four separate sites where crude oil was released from a tanker truck onto SPDC’s pipeline right of way. The source of the crude is not known and could not be linked directly to any unique or identifiable SPDC assets or spill points.
[B] Averages exclude sites where significant delays were encountered outside of our operational control due to security, community disturbance or flood conditions.
Collaborating with the IUCN
SPDC has worked with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) since 2012 to enhance remediation techniques and protect biodiversity at sites affected by oil spills in SPDC’s areas of operation in the Niger Delta. This work includes using bioremediation, a process that uses micro-organisms to naturally break down, and ultimately remove, oil contamination.
The Niger Delta Panel, an independent scientific advisor, has also provided input on oil spill response and remediation of soil and groundwater contamination. Based on this, SPDC strengthened its approach in this area.
In 2019, SPDC and IUCN joined forces on the Niger Delta Biodiversity Technical Advisory Group, which also includes representatives from the Nigerian Conservation Foundation and Wetlands International. The groups will continue to work together to monitor biodiversity recovery of remediated sites. Four sites have been assessed and selected as pilot sites for monitoring. These sites represent three ecosystems in the Niger Delta: land, seasonal swamp and swamp.
SPDC also works with a range of stakeholders in the Niger Delta to build greater trust in spill response and clean-up processes. Local communities take part in the remediation work for operational spills. In certain instances, some non-governmental organisations have also participated in joint investigation visits along with government regulators, SPDC and members of impacted communities to establish the cause and volume of oil spilled.
SPDC has also implemented several initiatives and partnerships to raise awareness of the negative impact of crude oil theft and illegal oil refining. Examples include community-based pipeline surveillance and the promotion of alternative livelihoods through Shell’s flagship youth entrepreneurship programme, Shell LiveWIRE.
Clean-up in Bodo
In 2015, SPDC – on behalf of the SPDC JV – and the Bodo community signed a memorandum of understanding granting SPDC access to begin the clean-up of areas affected by two operational spills in 2008. As part of this initiative, two contractors were selected to conduct the clean-up, overseen by an independent project director.
After two years of significant engagement with the Bodo community and others, managed by the Bodo Mediation Initiative, the first phase of clean-up activities started in September 2017. The clean-up consists of three phases: 1) removal of free-phase surface oil, 2) remediation of soil and 3) planting of mangroves and monitoring. The first phase was completed in August 2018.
The contract procurement process for phase two was completed in 2019, with remediation contractors and consultants selected. Local communities were then contacted. Around 800 community workers have been medically checked, assessed for their swimming ability, to ensure they can safely respond to potential incidents in rivers and creeks, and trained to International Maritime Organisation oil spill response levels one and two. Field remediation activities started in November 2019.
Phase two (remediation of soil) is expected to take around 18 months. However, it will only be successful if the repeated re-contamination of cleaned-up sites from illegal third-party activity stops.
Clean-up efforts in Ogoniland
SPDC is working with the relevant stakeholders to implement the 2011 UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) Report on Ogoniland. Over the last eight years, SPDC has taken action on all, and completed most, of the UNEP recommendations addressed specifically to it as operator of the joint venture.
The UNEP report recommended the creation of an Ogoni Trust Fund with $1 billion capital, to be co-funded by the Nigerian government, the SPDC JV and other operators in the area. The SPDC JV remains fully committed to contributing $900 million of the $1 billion over five years as its share of the fund and made $10 million available in 2017 to help set up the Hydrocarbon Pollution and Remediation Project (HYPREP), an agency established by the federal government to lead the clean-up effort. In 2018, the SPDC JV deposited a further $170 million into the escrow account to fund HYPREP’s activities, to complete its first-year contribution of $180 million. In 2019, the SPDC JV released a further $180 million contribution to fund HYPREP.
For more information on the activities of HYPREP go to hyprep.gov.ng.