According to Nigerian regulators, Shell should be fined US$ 5 billion for environmental damage caused by an oil spill last year.
The oil spill, which took place at the Bonga field, was one of the largest in the history of the African energy industry. Nigeria’s National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency claimed that despite the fact that the 40 000 bbl spill was contained successfully offshore, there was still a serious environmental threat: “The spilled barrels impacted approximately 950 km2 of water surface, affected a great number of sensitive environmental resources … It has a direct social impact on the livelihood of people in the riverine areas whose primary occupation is fishing.”
Shell, however, has protested strongly against the proposed fine, saying, “We do not believe there is any basis for such fine … Neither do we believe that Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCo) has committed any infraction of Nigerian law to warrant such a fine.”
“SNEPCo responded to this incident with professionalism and acted with the consent of the necessary authorities at all times to prevent environmental impact as a result of the incident.”
According to Shell, none of the oil from the spill ever reached land and much of it dispersed naturally or evaporated. Some clean-up activity did take place on the Western Niger Delta coastline, but Shell raised doubts over whether the oil found here had actually come from the Bonga field.
Oil spills are not uncommon in Nigeria, with many caused by theft in a process called bunkering where criminals break into pipelines and siphon off oil. It is estimated that 150 000 bbls of oil are stolen daily in the country.
The proposed fine is unusually severe, with a value of US$ 125 000 per bbl spilled; in contrast, even if BP is found to be grossly negligent in the case of the Deepwater Horizon spill, it will only have to pay US$ 4300 per bbl spilled.
Edited from various sources by David Bizley