How SPDC reduced oil spill by 46.6% in 2019 – Report

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By Anayo Ezugwu

THE Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, is determined to end oil spillage in Nigeria. In 2019, the oil company reported only seven operational spills, 46.6 percent decrease over the previous year (when it recorded 15 spills).

The annual review of the Nigerian Briefing Notes indicated that in 2019 the SPDC JV reduced operational spills to their lowest levels, significantly reduced breaches from wellheads and cleaned up more spill sites than ever before. The data available from the report showed that in 2019, oil theft and sabotage resulted in 156 spills. In 2018, the figure was 109.

The report noted that 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 said.

The report stated that Shell has a global ambition to achieve no harm and no leaks across all its operations. This ambition is known as Goal Zero and to reduce the number of operational spills in Nigeria, the SPDC JV is focused on implementing its ongoing work programme to appraise, maintain and replace key sections of pipelines and flow lines.

In 2019, SPDC completed another 30 kilometres of new pipelines, bringing the total laid over the last eight years to around 1,330 kilometres. These efforts have significantly reduced operational spills over 100 kilograms to seven incidents and 28 tonnes of crude in 2019, compared to 15 incidents and 413 tonnes in 2018. This represents a year-on-year reduction of more than 90 percent by volume, returning the joint venture to its trend of reducing operational spills. “Community engagement and the ongoing commitment from government agencies has also helped shorten response times to incidents. SPDC’s average time to complete the clean-up of free and/or residual spilled oil has halved from 13 days in 2016 to seven days in 2019. Closer engagement with communities has helped SPDC to access spill locations more quickly, meaning on average that joint investigations now commence within three days in 2019 compared to six days in 2016.

“However, the challenge of preventing spills relating to sabotage and theft by third parties remains. These illegal activities accounted for 95 percent 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 kilograms, 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 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.”

The report also acknowledged that SPDC is intensifying response and investigation of spill in the Niger Delta. According to the report, 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 visits 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.

“The SPDC JV is committed to minimising the impact of third-party incidents and spills. The company works with government agencies, non-governmental organisations and communities to proactively minimise spills from illegal activity. Using simplified zonal pipeline maps to enhance targeted response to third-party interference and prevent incidents from occurring. Since 2017, SPDC has also been able to remove more than 523 illegal theft points. Illegal theft points are identified by daily inspections from the air and on the ground.

“The company has also implemented anti-theft protection mechanisms, such as anti-tamper locks and steel cages for wellheads. Around 301 cages have been installed so far and around 80 more are planned for 2020 that will all come with CCTV technology. In 2019, three breaches of the cages were recorded out of 300 attempts. As a result, wellhead-related losses significantly dropped from about 30kb/d in 2016 to less than 1 kb/din 2019 across all SPDC operations.

“SPDC has also implemented several initiatives and partnerships to raise awareness of the negative impact of crude oil theft and illegal oil refining. Examples include community-based pipeline surveillance, radio jingles and the promotion of alternative livelihoods through Shell’s youth entrepreneurship programme, Shell LiveWIRE,” it said.

According to the report, SPDC is working with the relevant stakeholders to implement the 2011 United Nations Environmental Programme, UNEP Report on Ogoniland.  It noted that over the last eight years, SPDC has taken action on all, and completed most of the UNEP recommendations addressed specifically to it as operator of the joint venture.

“The UNEP report recommended the creation of an Ogoni Trust Fund with $1 billion capital to be co-funded by the Nigerian government, the SPDC JV and other operators in the area. The SPDC JV remains fully committed to contributing its share of $900 million over five years to the fund and made $10 million available in 2017 to help set up the Hydrocarbon Pollution and Remediation Project (HYPREP), an agency established by the federal government to lead the clean-up effort.

“In 2018, the SPDC JV deposited a further $170 million into the escrow account to fund HYPREP’s activities, to complete its first-year contribution of $180 million. The SPDC JV in 2019 contributed the next tranche of $180 million. At the end of 2019, the total contribution made was $360 million, which represents the full amount due for the two years.

“SPDC continues to work with the Bodo community and others to clean up areas affected by two operational spills in 2008. A memorandum of understanding granting SPDC access to begin the clean-up was signed in 2015 and two contractors were selected to conduct the clean-up, overseen by an independent project director. The clean-up consists of three phases: 1) removal of free phase surface oil, 2) remediation of soil, 3) planting of mangroves, and monitoring.

“The removal of surface oil started in September 2017 and was completed in August 2018. Field remediation activities started in November 2019, following a contract procurement process to select remediation contractors. Eight hundred (800) community workers have been medically checked, assessed for their swimming ability to ensure they can safely respond to incidents in rivers and creeks, and trained to International Maritime Organisation oil spill response Levels one and two. Remediation is expected to take around 18 months. The clean-up will only be successful if the repeated re-contamination of cleaned-up sites from illegal third-party activity stops.”

– Oct. 30, 2020 @ 18:07 GMT |

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