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Who Takes the Blame for Oil Pollution in the Niger Delta?

05 Feb 2013

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Dizeani Allison Madueke, Petroleum Minister

Incessant oil spills in the Niger Delta is an ill wind that blows nobody any good. Chika Amanze-Nwachuku and Ejiofor Alike write that effective collaboration between oil companies and their communities remain the surest way to address the long running problem

In Nigeria, oil spills have become a recurring decimal. It is estimated that between 10 million and 15 million barrels of oil Nigeria’s crude oil have been spewed into the environment since oil production started in Oloibiri, Niger Delta in 1958.

The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), which regulates activities in the Nigeria’s oil and gas industry confirmed recently that between 1976 and 1996, an approximately 1.89 million barrels of oil were spilled in about 4,647 incidents recorded in the Niger Delta region. A United Nations Development Programme  (UNDP) report also revealed that a total of 6,817 oil spill incidents were recorded between 1976 and 2001, which accounted for three million barrels of oil.

Notable incidents
Some of the notable incidents included the Shell Petroleum Development Company’s Forcados Terminal, tank failure of 1978, which led to the spilling of more than 500,000 barrels. Another major oil spill, which also occurred in 1978, was the Escravos spill. About 300,000 barrels of crude oil were reportedy spilled into the environment. Another notable incident was the 1980 Texaco Funiwa-well 5 incident, in which about 400,000 barrels were spilled.

The Nigerian National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) confirmed in a recent release that as much as 2,400 oil spills incidents were recorded between 2006 and 2010, which were caused by sabotage, bunkering and poor infrastructure.
Information obtained from Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), the company with the highest number of spills, showed that the company recorded about 201 oil spill incidents in just one year, which resulted in the spillage of some 26,411 barrels of crude.

In 2012 alone, Shell recorded about 198 cases of oil spills were across the Niger Delta. Of the 201 recent incidents, sabotage and theft accounted for 75.4 percent of the spills, while operational reasons accounted for just about 20 percent.
However, information obtained from the Wikipedia website noted that corrosion of pipelines and tankers, account for 50 per cent of all spills in Nigeria, while sabotage and equipment failures account for 28 per cent and 21 per cent respectively.
The free encyclopedia also observed that 69 percent of the spills occur off-shore and that most of the spills in the Niger Delta “are due to poor maintenance by oil companies”.

The Wikipedia identified causes of oil spills to include: corrosion of pipelines and tankers, which said account for 50 per cent of all spills, sabotage (28 per cent), and oil production operations, which result in 21 per cent of spill incidents. One percent of the spills, was linked to inadequate or non-functional production equipment.

Apart from Shell, other multinational oil companies have in recent past reported several cases of oil spill on their facilities.
In 2012, Mobil Producing Nigeria (MPN) reported two separate incidents on the coast in Ibeno, Akwa Ibom, where it operates two offshore oil blocks and a 960, 000 barrels per day crude export terminal.

Crude oil spill was also reported from the fire, which hit an oil drilling rig, KS Endeavor, operated by Chevron Nigeria. The incident, which took place in January last year, resulted in the death of three persons.

Also, Italian Eni last year, reported scores of oil spills on its Nembe-Obama pipeline in Nigeria’s onshore Niger Delta.
Declaring open a public hearing on NOSDRA Amendment Bill 2012 in Abuja in November last year,  Senator Bukola Saraki disclosed that Nigeria has the highest number of oil spill incidences among oil producing nations of the world.
Saraki, who was the immediate past Governor of Kwara State and Chairman, Senate Joint Committee on Environment and Ecology had observed that the level of oil spills in Nigeria was a reflection of the total disregard on our environment and the dignity of our people.

He said: “Oil spill had become an irresponsible environmental behaviour and reckless waste of the people’s wealth and benefit”.
He expressed regrets that oil spill was ravaging our environment and had become one of the greatest threats to our sustainable development.
“The statistics of oil spills in Nigeria is shameful; the impact on the environment is offensive. It can no longer be business as usual. Without a doubt, oil spillage is dealt with all over the world as an environmental issue and a human right issue that goes to the quality of the environment and the value of life of those impacted by spills”.

Similarly, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, at a presentation in Washington D.C., last year, blamed failure of International Oil Companies (IOCs) to adhere to global environmental standard and Nigeria’s environmental laws and regulations for the decades-long hydrocarbon pollution in Nigeria.

The minister, who spoke on "The Strategic Importance of Nigeria's Oil and Gas Industry to Global Security and World Global Economy" at the Howard University in Washington,  accused successive administrations of failing  to ensure strict compliance with Nigerian environmental laws and policies.

She said: “I must say that multinational oil companies are not adhering to the global standard towards certain aspects of our environmental interest. At the same time the government itself did not as well ensure that its standards and policies in terms of our environment were implemented to the latter”.

The minister noted that environmental pollution had become a global phenomenon and that the Nigerian government was putting in place “stronger policies, stronger punitive measures” to address the issue.

Responses to spills
Oil companies and their host communities often trade blames as to the causes of the devastating spills. While the oil communities blame most of them on equipment failures and human errors, oil companies link over 70 per cent of the oil spills in the Niger Delta to sabotage. Also the communities allege that oil companies keep the volume of oil spilled secret and are often very slow to react to spill incidents.

In one of the incidents, Head of Friends of the Earth International Nimo Bassey had alleged that oil firms in Nigeria largely ignore reports on spills and even in most cases, cover them up.

Chairman of an oil community committee in the Nembe region, Nengi James, who shared bassey’s views also claimed that oil companies are often slow to react to spills and do not also clean them up properly.

He told Reuters after the June 2012 oil spill on Eni’s Nembe-Obama pipeline that "in spite of the huge consequences occasioned by the oil spill, Eni failed to discuss development”.
"They (oil firms) allow oil spills to spread to rivers and mangrove forests before coming for inspection and clean-up", he told Reuters.

Shell Reacts
However, the SPDC has disputed the claims by oil communities and environmental groups and insisted that it has publicly reported oil spill statistics yearly since 1995 to enhance transparency.

The company explained that of the 198 cases of oil spills it recorded across the Niger Delta in 2012 in which thousands of barrels of crude oil were spilled, 37 incidents were caused by the failure of equipment of the oil company, while 161 incidents resulted from sabotage and activities of crude oil thieves.

The implication, according to the oil firm, is that sabotage and activities of crude oil thieves accounted for 81.3per cent of oil spills suffered by the company across the Niger Delta in 2012.
“Of the 198 cases, equipment and manpower failure, corrosion and aging of pipeline accounted for 18.7 per cent, representing 37 incidents, the company clarified.

On how it responds to spills, SPDC stated that its operators continuously monitor for leaks and respond to anomalies.
“In addition, any reports, either by community surveillance teams under contract to SPDC or by the public, are responded to immediately. SPDC first shuts down the flow of oil to the leak before steps are taken to verify other details about the incident in preparation for the response, which starts with containment. By immediately shutting down pipelines or flowlines that are damaged and containing the spills, we minimise the damage to the environment,” Shell said.

“To provide transparency with respect to the cause and consequence of the spill, a team including relevant government agencies and SPDC is accompanied by representatives of impacted communities when they visit the site, as quickly as possible after the leak occurs. This Joint Inspection Visit, or JIV for short, determines the spread, the volume and the cause of the spill,”  the report added.
Shell listed members of the JIV to include the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), the relevant State Ministry of the Environment and the Police.

It added: “After the clean-up, there can still be residual oil that has soaked into the soil, or oil that is sticking to vegetation. A post clean-up inspection, involving representatives from the same parties listed for JIVs, assesses whether the site needs further remediation to comply with international standards. If remediation is not required, then the spill site can be certified clean and the incident closed out”.
When the company completes the remediation process, the site is handed over for close-out inspection and certification by the relevant government agencies.

The Department of Petroleum Resources – Environmental Guidelines and Standards for the Petroleum Industry in Nigeria (DPR- EGASPIN) of 2002 provides the performance standard that governs spill response process in Nigeria.
Remediation, according to the oil major, is a longer term process aimed at returning the site to its previous state.
Shell has also identified several ways to achieve international standards of restoration depending on whether the spill is on land or swamp terrain.

The three methods of remediation commonly employed by the globally include Remediation by Enhanced Natural Attenuation (RENA), Remediation by Stabilisation / Solidification and Low Temperature Thermal Desorption.
According to Shell, the RENA technique is the predominant method in use and may be applied in-situ, treating the soil on site or ex-situ, removing the soil to be cleaned elsewhere and returned site).

Shell stated that remediation in swampy terrain depended on the nature of swamp - seasonal or perennial.
“A seasonal swamp is dry during the dry season and holds water during rainy season. Remediation of the impacted soil can be undertaken using RENA method in the dry season,” said the report.

“In perennial swamps, free phase oil on water and vegetation is cleaned by flushing and skimming whilst oily sludge is remediated by systematic agitation using swamp buggies coupled with application of suitable nutrient amendment to promote biodegradation and other natural attenuation processes,” the company said.

Pipelines replacement
In August 2011, the SPDC recorded six separate oil spill incidents on the Okordia – Rumuekpe trunk line at Ikarama in Bayelsa State, within two weeks from hacksaw cuts by unknown persons. Within the same period, three hacksaw cuts were again reported on the nearby Adibawa delivery line. Some production had been shut in while SPDC the line had been repaired.

To check incessant pipeline attacks, the SPDC in 2011 awarded N7.8 billion contract to a Nigerian firm, SCC Limited for the manufacture of crude pipe lines.

Also, to curb pipeline vandalism, another Nigerian firm, FENOG Nigeria Limited was awarded contract to use Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD), the latest technology in the industry to lay pipelines at depths to make vandalism impossible.
The company, which used the HDD technology to complete the Escravos-Warri Pipelines project, had earlier completed the first  ever  HDD  job in  the  country  for  Chevron  Nigeria  Limited’s Escravos  River  Crossing  project  in  Delta  State, where it laid  24-inch  diametre pipes across   Escravos  River.

The latest technonology, PD 500 HDD rig has the capacity to bury pipes from one metre depth to sixty metres depth, up to a distance of four kilometres.

Speaking on the new technology, which his company introduced in Nigeria’s oil industry, the Executive Director of FENOG Nigeria Limited, Mr. Matthew  Tonlagha had told THISDAY that the company’s latest  special  PD  500  Horizontal  Directional  Drilling  (HDD) Rig had capacity  to  lay  pipe from 1metre to 60metres depth to the distance of 4kilometres.

He stated that the need to acquire the  latest  version of PD 500  HDD Rig  was borne  out   of  the  desire   to lay pipes of bigger diameters at depths of between one metre to 60 metres and up  to  a distance  of  4kilometres at  once.

The  PD 500 HDD Rig, he explained, was a customised and  specially designed  rig  that is different from  what  is  obtained  in  the United States,  United Kingdom  and  other parts  of  the  world.

The   PD  250  HDD  Rigs  had  also  completed  other  river  crossing  projects  for Zakhem Nigeria Ltd  and the  Nigerian Gas Company, the gas marketing arm of the NNPC. The projects  include; Egwa  1 river  crossing, 24-inch x 680metres; Egwa 11  river  crossing, 24-inch x 950metres; Poro  Creek river  crossing, 24 x  440metres; Apala  Creek  river  crossing, 24-inch x  400metres and  Warri  River  crossing, 24-inch  x 600metres.

Tags: Business, Nigeria, Featured, Oil Pollution, Niger Delta

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