Nigeria in race to limit Shell oil spill

2011-12-22 22:03
Lagos - Authorities rushed to prevent one of Nigeria's worst recent oil spills from reaching the West African nation's shoreline on Thursday, with production from a major Shell field also shut due to the leak.

Shell, which said the leak has been stopped, has estimated that less than 40 000 barrels of crude have spilled into the sea and was deploying ships with dispersants to attack the slick. Planes were also being mobilised.

It was Nigeria's worst offshore spill since a 1998 Mobil incident, officials said, though onshore leaks have been estimated at levels far worse since that time in the oil-producing Niger Delta.

"It's about the same level with what happened in 1998 with the Mobil oil spill," said Peter Idabor, head of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency.

"The oil slicks went down the whole coast line and beyond Nigeria's borders."

Satellite imagery

He said, however, that Nigeria was better prepared this time, with some 210 tons of dispersant being prepared to attack the spill, which has spread to an area between 55km to 70km in size.

Environmental group SkyTruth, using satellite imagery from Wednesday morning it published on its website, estimated the slick was 70km long and 17km wide at its widest point.

It said it covered 923km2 of ocean.

Idabor said it was unclear when the oil slick could reach the shore. London-based Oil Spill Response Limited was to be involved in the clean up, he said.

The slick was moving in the direction of Forcados, which is located along the coast of Nigeria's Delta state, he said.

Nnimmo Bassey, the Nigeria-based head of Friends of the Earth International who has closely monitored spills in the country, called it a major incident and pressed for an independent analysis of the amount of oil leaked.

"We can see a real threat to livelihood to fishermen and local communities onshore," he said.

Doubt

The leak occurred on Tuesday at Shell's Bonga field some 120km off Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer and an Opec member. Production has halted at the field, which has a capacity of 200 000 barrels per day.

The company claimed on Thursday that "up to 50% of the leaked oil has already dissipated due to natural dispersion and evaporation", but that figure was impossible to verify independently.

Bassey cast doubt on the figure, saying: "I don't believe that 50% would disperse over just less than two days."

Shell said it was deploying vessels and mobilising planes to fight the spill with dispersants.

The company said the leak occurred during a transfer of crude to a waiting tanker. The likely source was an export line linking a production vessel to the tanker, it said.

Nigeria has been producing between 2.0 and 2.4 million barrels per day in recent months.

Scores of oil spills have occurred in the country, but most have been onshore, particularly due to pipeline sabotage aimed at stealing crude to sell on the black market as well as militant attacks.

Oil pollution

Activists say Shell and other companies have not done enough to prevent oil leaks at their facilities.

The UN released a report in August saying decades of oil spills in the Nigerian area of Ogoniland may require the biggest cleanup ever undertaken, with communities dependent upon farmers and fishermen left ravaged.

Activists say two spills in the Ogoni community of Bodo in 2008 amounted to hundreds of thousands of barrels, but Shell disputes that figure and says it was far lower.

Amnesty International has estimated that if all types of oil pollution in the vast Niger Delta - the country's oil-producing region - are added up over the past half-century, it would be "on par with the Exxon Valdez every year over the last 50 years".
Read more on:    shell  |  nigeria  |  west africa  |  environment

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.