Shell Debunks Amnesty’s Allegations on Spills Management in Niger Delta

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By Ejiofor Alike

Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) has denied allegations of environmental mismanagement in the Niger Delta levelled against it by Amnesty International, reiterating its commitment to swift response to oil spill incidents as much as access and security conditions permit teams to mobilise and deploy to spill sites to investigate, clean up and remediate such areas.

SPDC’s General Manager, External Relations, Mr. Igo Weli, said in a statement yesterday that the company had also deployed technology and best practice to make it more difficult for unauthorised persons to break pipelines and steal crude oil from its facilities.

“SPDC, in collaboration with government regulators, responds swiftly to spill incidents as quickly as it can and cleans up spills from its facilities regardless of the cause. We regularly test our emergency spill response procedures and capability to ensure staff and contractors can respond rapidly to an incident. However, response to spills, clean-up and remediation depend on access to the spill site and ultimately on the security of personnel and equipment while work is ongoing,” Weli said.

He said Amnesty International’s allegations were false, without merit and failed to recognise the complex environment in which the company operates where security, a sole prerogative of government, remains a major concern with persisting incidents of criminality, kidnapping, vandalism, threats from self-described militant groups.

Weli said the transparency in the online reporting of spill incidents by SPDC in its areas of since 2011, which Amnesty International itself acknowledged, demonstrates its commitment to creating awareness and enhancing collaboration with key stakeholders on oil spill response and clean-up processes and deepening understanding of the complex and challenging operating environment.

“SPDC reiterates its commitment to carrying out operations in line with best practice in a responsible and environment-friendly manner,” he added.

He noted that over the years, SPDC, the operator of a joint venture between the government-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), SPDC, Total E&P Nigeria Ltd and the ENI subsidiary Nigerian Agip Oil Company Limited, sustained air and ground surveillance as well as anti-theft mechanisms on equipment and pipelines to mitigate third-party interference and ensure that spills are detected and responded to as quickly as possible.

Weli added that the company conducts daily over-flights of its pipeline network to identify any new spill incidents or illegal activities, and installed state-of-the-art high definition camera to a specialised helicopter that greatly improves the surveillance of our assets.

“SPDC also works diligently to develop new hardware barriers and technologies to detect and prevent oil theft, sabotage, criminality and other types of third party interference that cause environmental damage, participating in industrial organisations in Nigeria as well as internationally to share best practices. Regrettably, despite these and other efforts, criminals still target oil and gas infrastructure, causing spills, and the company is continuing to focus attention on the detrimental impact of these activities on people, the economy and environment in engagements with the media, government officials, diplomats and community people,” he added.

Amnesty International had accused Shell and Eni of gross negligence and irresponsible approach to oil spills in the Niger Delta, thereby exacerbating environmental crisis in Nigeria’s oil-producing region.

The global humanitarian organisation had also alleged that the two oil multinationals were publishing misleading information contested by communities in the Niger Delta, who stand to lose compensation if the companies attribute spills to third party activity.