Sunday, August 14, 2011

Shell faces big bill for oil spills in Nigeria - 12th Aug 2011

Oil titan Royal Dutch Shell faces a bill for hundreds of millions of dollars for two big 2008 oil spills in Nigeria's main oil-producing zone, a region devastated by 6,800 recorded spills over the last half century.

Shell reportedly has accepted liability for two spills following a 4-month legal battle in London over a suit initiated by a law firm representing the pollution-stricken communities in the Niger Delta, where some 31 million people live. Most are impoverished, living on $1 a day.

The case seems set to establish a precedent for other high-profile lawsuits against leading oil companies in other parts of the world. Chevron of the United States, for instance, is being sued for $27 billion in damages for massive pollution in the Amazon jungles of Ecuador.

Shell, which along with BP -- then known as British Petroleum -- discovered oil in Nigeria in 1956, has claimed that less than 40,000 gallons of crude oil leaked from the twin ruptures in November and December 2008 of the 50-year-old Bodo-Bonny pipeline. It pumps 120,000 barrels of oil a day across the Niger region.

But London's Guardian newspaper reported that technical experts estimate more than 280,000 barrels may have been spilled around the town of Bodo, a hub for a network of pipelines that carry oil from around 100 wells in the pollution-plagued Ogoni district.

"Experts who studied video footage of the spills in Bodo … say together they could be as large as the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska."

Between 260,000 and 750,000 barrels of oil leaked from the tanker after it hit a reef in the Gulf of Alaska in March 1989.

Amnesty International has estimated that if all types of oil pollution in the delta were added up over the last half century, it would "be on a par with Exxon Valdez every year over the last 50 years."

The Alaska spill was the worst environmental disaster in U.S. waters until the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, during which 4.9 million barrels of crude leaked from the offshore BP well. Read More