Between January 2019 and May 18, 2021, a total of 30 oil companies in Nigeria spilt 41,216 barrels of crude, data published by NOSDRA, a government-run satellite tracker, showed.
This is equivalent to 6.5 million litres of oil (at 159 litres to a barrel). The spills occurred in 846 cases of oil spillages in less than three years.
These companies drill for oil in the Niger Delta region of the country and pay production entitlements, taxes, royalties and other remittances to the Nigerian government.
Shell Petroleum Development Company (331), the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (196), Heritage Energy Operational Service Limited (40) are responsible for about 70 per cent of these cases.
The data changes quickly as new spills are reported, NOSDRA said. The quoted figure is as of May 18. NOSDRA only has records of the company-by-company breakdown for the past three years.
Seven of the companies accounted for over 90 per cent of the barrels of oil lost to the spills (37,245), which are blamed for environmental degradation and economic sabotage in the oil-producing communities.
They include Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Eroton Exploration and Production Limited (Eroton E&P), ND Western (NDWEST), Heritage Energy Operational Service Limited (Heritage), Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC), and the National Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), a subsidiary of Nigerian public oil company, NNPC.
Energy giant Shell alone accounted for over 40 per cent of the total. In 331 incidents the company recorded in three years, 17,476 barrels (2.8 million litres) of oil were spilled.
The company is Nigeria’s largest Shell company jointly owned by NNPC (55 per cent share), SPDC (30 per cent), Total E&P Nigeria Ltd (10 per cent) and the ENI subsidiary Agip Oil Company Limited (5 per cent). It is Nigeria’s biggest oil producer, accounting for around 40 per cent of the nation’s total crude and condensate output capacity of 2.2 million barrels per day.
The Eroton E&P spilled 8,537 barrels worth of oil (1.4 million litres); NDWEST, 3,412 barrels (542,508 litres); Heritage, 3,400 (540,000 litres); NAOC, 3,224 (512,616 litres); NPDC, 1,196 (190,164 litres).
At the foot the log of the companies that reported spills are Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (MPN), Addax Petroleum Development Company Nigeria Limited (ADDAX), Esso Exploration and Production Nigeria Limited (ESSO), Guarantee Petroleum Limited, PPMC (NPSC), Sterling Exploration and Energy Production Company Limited (SEEPCO).
|Oil companies||Incidents||Barrels reported spilt|
|Addax Petroleum Development Company Nigeria Limited (ADDAX)||2||0|
|Aiteo Exploration and Production (Aiteo E&P)||9||2,827|
|Chevron Nigeria Limited (CHEVRON)||32||36|
|Enageed Resource Limited (ERL)||8||53|
|Esso Exploration and Production Nigeria Limited (ESSO)||4||0|
|Eroton Exploration & Production Limited (Eroton E&P)||34||8,537|
|First Hydrocarbon Nigeria (FIRST)||30||235|
|Guarantee Petroleum Limited||1||0|
|Guaranteed Petroleum Limited||1||8|
|Heritage Energy Operational Service Limited (Heritage)||40||3,400|
|Infravision LTD COMPANY||1||38|
|KAMLIK NIGERIA LIMITED||1||3|
|Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (MPN)||27||1|
|Midwestern Oil & Gas Corporation (Midwestern)||10||143|
|Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC)||196||3,224|
|ND Western (NDWEST)||26||3,412|
|National Petroleum Development Company (NPDC)||13||1,196|
|Neconde Energy Limited (Neconde)||3||28|
|OVH Energy Marketing Limited||1||101|
|Pan Ocean Oil Corporation Nigeria Limited (POOCN)||6||20|
|Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC)||6||100|
|Platform Petroleum Limited (Platform)||9||12|
|Sterling Exploration and Energy Production Company Limited (SEEPCO)||1||0|
|Seplat Petroleum Development Company Limited (SEPLAT)||34||137|
|Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC)||331||17,476|
|Sahara Energy Fields Limited (Sahara)||1||8|
|Total Exploration and Production (TOTAL)||11||77|
|Total Upstream Nigeria (TUPNI)||2||40|
Of the aforementioned companies, only Shell and Agip are among companies that hold some of the highest oil reserves and operating assets in the country. Together with Chevron, Mobil, Elf and Texaco, all six hold 98 per cent of the oil assets.
An earlier analysis by PREMIUM TIMES had shown that of the over 40,000 barrels of oil that were spilt since 2019, about 77 per cent occurred in only three oil-producing states: Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers. States like Abia, Imo, Akwa Ibom, Edo, Lagos, Kaduna and Ondo and others accounted for the remaining spillages.
The Port Harcourt-based executive director of We the People, a non-profit organisation, Ken Henshaw, believes that spillages are underreported because they sometimes occur simultaneously in many sites at a time.
Causes of oil spills
A breakdown of the causes of spillage by NOSDRA showed that more than 74 per cent (628 incidents) of the cases were as a result of sabotage and theft.
|Causes||Incidents||Barrels reported spilled|
|Equipment failure (eqf)||64||2,257.52|
|Operational/maintenance error (ome)||30||146.16|
|Yet to determine (ytd)||13||3|
Corrosion caused about 10 per cent of the cases (81).
Corrosion is caused by the extensive network of pipelines between the small-sized oilfields in the Niger Delta which are not helped by their outdated specification, poor maintenance and over usage.
Equipment failure was responsible for about seven per cent of the spills (64) and operational or maintenance error made up for around 3 per cent (30).
Last week, Shell cited sabotage, crude thefts as well as litigations with host communities as the reasons it is considering offloading the last of its Nigerian onshore assets in a move to rein back risks involved in operating in the Niger Delta.
With 90 per cent of its revenue earned from oil, Shell’s potential divestment could deal a fresh blow to the Nigerian government’s fiscal plan as it rebalances from the oil crash of 2020. This explains why the government is racing to broker some concessions.
Usually, oil companies whose facilities are breached are to take responsibility for the oil spill clean-up. However, in cases of equipment faults and operational errors, the companies are required to pay compensation to the affected local communities.
These clauses have often led to clashes between the host communities and the companies, one that has bred unending suspicion and mutual distrust over the years, and makes some spillage underreported or even underestimated.
“Majority of the oil spills go unreported because the responsible authorities (DPR) do not have all the logistics. Instead, the oil companies provide the logistics and expertise,” Mr Henshaw said.
“There is no way they would indict themselves. That’s why they record it as sabotage. Their remediation exercises are extremely shabby. Sometimes they put white sand to cover the spill sites.”
He noted that it was wrong to blame the entire host community for a crime carried out by individuals. The communities are blamed because they have no voice, he said.
He added that the “real oil theft is happening at the terminals, on the sea, in connivance with the security operatives, foreign expatriates and politicians. There is no way refined oil gets to the jetty onshore without passing through checkpoints.”
The Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, spokesperson, Paul Osuh, did not respond to calls for comment.
Implications of loss
With Shell mulling divestment from the country’s oil scene, it could have a big impact on the Nigeria’s oil output, according to energy industry watcher S&P Global Platts.
Also, an estimate says Nigeria has lost five to ten per cent of its mangrove ecosystems to either settlement or oil spills.
Mr Henshaw explained that farming and fishing, major sources of income in the Niger Delta, are greatly affected as aquatic lives like periwinkles, crabs and the soil are depleted.
“This is why when you look at unemployment in Nigeria, the Niger Delta region has always been among the highest. That’s to say that their sources of income have been affected,” he said.
Imo, Adamawa, Cross River, Yobe, Akwa Ibom and Rivers are the states with the highest unemployed population. Only Adamawa and Yobe among these states are not in the Niger Delta.
“When the oil spills, you cannot sell farm produce. When you squeeze yam sometimes, you see oil dripping from it.”
The spillage, apart from shrinking plants and aquatic lives through contamination of groundwater, soils and drinking water, imposes a huge financial strain on the country.
On one hand, oil that could have generated revenue is lost and the other, outlay that could have been used for other infrastructural benefits are used to maintain vandalised pipelines, for instance.
From January 2019 to January this year, Nigeria spent N15 billion to repair vandalised pipelines alone, lNNPC’s monthly financial reports showed. Within the same period, the company spent a total of N59.1 billion on the repair and management of the pipelines
This is not unexpected as this newspaper had found: a total of 1,161 pipeline points were vandalised across Nigeria between January 2019 and September 2020. between October 2018 and October 2019, the toll was 2,181.
The total spilt oil (41,216 barrels) is worth over $2.9 million (about N1.2 billion). Again, as this newspaper earlier established, this is enough to build three classrooms of four blocks and drill three gigantic solar-powered boreholes in 12 states.
(Support for this report was provided by the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) through its Natural Resource and Extractives Programme).
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