By Bunmi Christiana Aduloju
Since oil was first discovered in Oloibiri, in Nigeria’s Bayelsa State in 1956, communities hosting the hydrocarbon reservoirs in the Niger Delta have had to put up with devastating oil spills. Biodiversity has suffered from harm done to it by the continual flowing oil in the region.
An integral part of oil spill clean-up and remediation is oil stoppage. This practice aims to close off oil spills as early as possible. The faster the response to oil spills, the likelier the cushioning of its effects and so ideally, the journey to oil spill clean-up should begin in twenty-four (24) hours.
In Nigeria, under the law, oil spills must be stopped by thefacility operators within 24 hours of being notified of the oil spill, whether the spill was caused by the company’s activities or third-party action. In other words, it is the duty of facility operators to ensure that oil flow is closed off as soon as it is detected.
However, there are shortfalls in the discontinuation of oil spills at the appropriate time by oil companies, according to data obtained from the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), the Federal Government oil spill monitoring agency in Nigeria.
An Africa Oil+Gas Report analysis of data obtained from NOSDRA, indicate that a total of 494 oil spill incidents occurred from January 2020 till May 2021.
A further analysis of the time between oil spill incidence and the oil spill stop showed that in 2020 alone, there were about 373 incidents of oil spill.
At the time of filing this report, from January 2020 till May 2021, oil companies failed to stop oil spill within 24 hours of the incident in 110 cases and in 133 cases, oil companies stopped oil spill within 24 hours. In 251 cases, due to missing data in NOSDRA’s dataset, it was not specified when the oil spill was closed off.
Within this timeframe, a total of 26178.34 barrels of oil was spilled by 26 oil companies.
The Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) was the highest offender within this period. In 80 cases, it failed to stop oil spill within 24 hours and in 82 cases it stopped oil spill in 24 hours. Also, SPDC tops the list with the longest response time to oil spill during this period. It stopped an oil spill after 185 days in an incident that occurred due to sabotage at the 28” Bomu-Bonny Trunckline at Alaskiri, Rivers State on the 28th of January, 2020. The oil spill was stopped on the 31st of July, 2020. The impact of the spill was labelled, “Non-leaking and no impact on the environment.”
In another occurrence, on the 23rd of March 2021, which is the second slowest response to oil spill stoppage in the analysed period of January 2020 to May 2021, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) responded to an oil spill in 20days. The oil spill was caused by corrosion and it affected 3” Imo River Well63T at the Owaza community, Etche Local Government, Rivers State. The impact was labelled, “Dripped of crude oil within right of way.” It was stopped on the 12th of April, 2020. However, in SPDC’s March 2021 oil spill report, this incident was recorded to have occurred on the 24th of March, 2021. Additional information by SPDC on the oil spill event attributed the delay to “security concerns.”
The third slowest response to oil spill stop, brought off by Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC), was 16 days, according to NOSDRA. The incident was caused by sabotage at the 16” Tuomo Ogbainbiri Delivery Gas Line at Ayamasa, at EkeremorLocal Government, Bayelsa and the impact was labelled, “Gaseous Emission (Condensate).”
The oil companies who complied fully with the oil spill stoppage timeline of 24 hours from January 2020 till May 2021 are KAMLIK Nigeria Limited, Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), PPMC (NPSC) and TOTALUpstream Nigeria (TUPNI), according to NOSDRA’s data.
The companies with missing data during this period are Mobil Producing Nigeria Limited (MPN), National Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), Heritage Energy Operational Service Limited, Enageed Resources Limited, Platform Petroleum Limited, Infravision Ltd Company, Esso Exploration and Production and Production Nigeria Limited, First Hydrocarbon Nigeria, ND Western, Midwestern Oil & Gas Corporation, Neconde and Pan Ocean Oil Corporation Nigeria Limited (POOCN).
Out of the 494 incidents of oil spill recorded from January 2020 till May 2021 by NOSDRA, oil spill clean-up data was recorded scantily for only 40 incidents. First Hydrocarbon Nigeria started cleaning an oil spill after 13 months and 10 days, accounting for the longest response time in the 40 incidents recorded. The incident, caused by sabotage, happened at Isoko-North, Delta State at the NPDC OGINI – Eriemu 10” Delivery Line at Eniagbedhi Owhe on the 23rd of February, 2021. It started cleaning the oil spill on the 10th of March, 2021 and ended the clean-up process on the 22nd of April, 2021.
The fastest clean up response was carried out by NAOC from January 2020 till May 2021. On three occasions, on the 9th of January, 2020, 11th of January, 2020 and the 30th of January, 2020 at the Ebocha 9l Flowline at Mgbede, Rivers State and the 10” Clough Creek/Tebidaba Pipeline at Gbaraun, Bayelsa State, oil spill clean-up was achieved in 24 hours.
SHELL AND ENI
In 2018, Amnesty International, an international human rights organisation, published a report that accused Shell and Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC), subsidiaries of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and ENI respectively, of being negligent with oil spill clean-up. Long delays in conducting the Joint Investigative Visit (JIV) to ascertain the extent of damage of the oil spill to the environment, slow response to shutting off the flow of oil, and contradicting evidence pointing to their activities instead of recorded oil spill caused by “third party interference”, are some of the issues raised by the international NGO.
The 2011 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report on Ogoniland reiterated that, “Any delay in cleaning up an oil spill will lead to oil being washed away by rainwater, traversing communities and farmland and almost always ending up in the creeks.”
As with Ogoniland, in Nigeria, communities are at the receiving end of oil spills. Even when Shell Petroleum Development Company, in keeping with the polluter-pays principle, accepted liability for the clean-up of Ogoniland 11 years after the oil spill, the UNEP study revealed that cleaning up Ogoniland could take about 30 years.
OIL SPILL COMPENSATION
According to NOSDRA, sabotage and theft is the highest cause of oil spill in oil producing states.
Consequently, if an oil spill is not caused by the company’s activities, compensation would not be paid to the affected communities. Stakeholders Democracy Network (SDN), a watchdog organisation, in one of its publications titled, International Compensation Systems for Oil Spills in Relation to Reform in Nigeria, stated that the compensation structure for oil spill in Nigeria doesn’t measure up to international standards, as they come with “highly variable rates of compensation and high legal costs.”
Also, it stated that because oil spills instigated by third parties are not compensated in Nigeria, “many communities are blighted by the illegal actions of the few.”
This story was produced under the NAREP Media Oil and Gas 2021 Fellowship of the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism. Aduloju is a reporter with Africa Oil+Gas Report.