THERE are indications that oil theft and illegal refining have attain new heights in Nigeria as Shell Petroleum Development Company Limited (SPDC), with over 600,000 barrels daily output, recorded 39 oil spill cases in the second quarter (April – June) of 2020, according to data obtained from SPDC.
Although this indicated a drop of 61.5 per cent when compared to 63 cases recorded in the corresponding period of 2019, the frequency in which they occurred appeared very worrisome.
However, the data also showed that 15 cases were recorded in March 2020, all of which were attributed to mainly pipeline vandalism and oil theft.
On monthly basis, the data further showed that 19, 11 and nine cases were recorded in April, May and June 2020 respectively.
In its current Briefing Notes, the company disclosed that in 2019, oil theft and sabotage resulted in 156 spills, adding: “In 2018, the figure was 109. The SPDC JV has a policy that when a leak is identified, the team responds to contain any spilled oil and clean up. In 2019, SPDC JV remediated 130 sites. The SPDC JV is working to eliminate spills from its operational activities, remediate past spills and prevent spills caused by crude oil theft, sabotage of pipelines or illegal oil refining. While SPDC operates to the same technical standards as other Shell companies globally, illegal activities continue to inhibit a normal operating environment.
Past spills from operational and illegal activities have been well documented, resulting in a clean-up programme and, where appropriate, compensation. There is still much work to do to get the company to its target of Goal Zero in all spills (operational and third party vandalism). But through a solid strategy, active partnerships, closer community engagements, bold security and new surveillance equipment, the company is steadily making good progress.”
It also noted: “However, the challenge of preventing spills relating to sabotage and theft by third parties remains. These illegal activities accounted for 95 per cent of the SPDC JV spill incidents in 2019, a similar proportion to previous years. In 2019, there were 156 theft and sabotage-related spills over 100 kilogrammes, up from 109 in 2018.
This is due to factors such as increased availability of production facilities after a major export line repair in 2017, crude theft activities in an election year when government’s security agents can be reassigned, and the price of crude oil and refined products that is seen as an opportunity for illegal refining. Despite preventive efforts, spilled volumes from illegal activities increased to around 2,000 tonnes of crude in 2019, compared with around 1,600 tonnes in 2018.
“When a leak is identified, production is suspended, and efforts made to contain any spilled oil. We regularly test our emergency spill response procedures and capability to ensure staff and contractors can respond rapidly to an incident. In line with government regulations, a Joint Investigation Visit (JIV), team visited the spill site to establish the cause and volume of oil spilled. The team comprises representatives from SPDC, regulators, government security agencies, state governments and communities.”
Many other companies have recorded similar experiences. For instance, in its latest report, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), which represents the Federal Government’s interest in the Joint Ventures with the International Oil Companies (IOCs), also stated: “The continuous vandalism of NNPC pipelines resulted in an increased cost of pipelines maintenance alongside loss of crude oil and petroleum products.”