Shell to Blame for Massive Nigerian Oil Spill

Environmental groups in Nigeria have blamed Shell for an oil spill that sent streaks of oil to the country’s shoreline, last week.

The Nigerian group Environmental Rights Action, said that oil was reported along the shoreline of fishing communities in Delta state and Baylesa state, according to an AFP report. The ERA, which closely monitors oil spills, said they sent out investigators after complaints from fisherman. They initially suspected the oil came from a Royal Dutch Shell oil spill last week, which was the worst spill since 1998.

“In the course of the visit, spreading slick was sighted close to the coastline of Odioama and along St. Nicholas,” ERA said in a report.

The group’s leader, Nnimmo Bassey, told AFP that the footprints of the oil come from the ocean.

“We suspect it is from Bonga,” he claimed.

Another environmental group, Friends of the Earth Nigeria, also monitored the Atlantic shoreline where oil from the spill was reported.

Peter Idabor, leader of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, said the spill from the Bonga oil fields affected 115 miles of ocean near Nigeria coast, according to The Associated Press. He says that oil continues to move towards the shore, threatening wildlife in the area.

According to Royal Dutch Shell, a major oil producer in Nigeria, the spill from the Bonga field leaked less than 40,000 barrels- that’s 1.68 million gallons- and that had been largely dispersed, according to an AFP report. The spill came from a flexible export line connecting the offshore field to a waiting tanker. They claim 50 percent of the spill has already evaporated.

“The oil spill has now been dispersed and contained,” said Shell Nigeria spokesperson, Precious Okolobo.

Several vessels and aircrafts were set out to spread chemical dispersants and the spill was cleared up over the weekend before it hit the shore.

SkyTruth, a nonprofit group based in West Virginia, estimated that the spill could be larger than authorities believe. Using satellite imagery, SkyTruth estimated that the oil spill could have stretched across a 350 square miles of ocean.

The oil spill, which occurred Dec. 20, led to the shutdown of Royal Dutch Shell’s 200,000-barrel-a-day Bonga facility, which is operated in partnership with Italy’s Eni SpA, Exxon Mobil Corp., France’s Total SA and the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. Bonga is located about 75 miles off Nigeria’s coast.

Okolobo claims that oil found on the shoreline had to have come from a third party, and oil from the Shell spill did not wash up on the shore.

“We found a third-party spill and we have told our team on the ground to clean it. If there was a spill on the shoreline, it’s a third-party spill,” Okolobo said.

Environmentalists blame Shell and other foreign oil firms for polluting the country’s oil-rich Niger Delta. They claim that as much as 550 million gallons of oil poured into the delta over the 50 year span of Shell’s production in Nigeria. Shell says that most of the spills in recent years were caused by militant attacks and thieves tapping into pipelines to steal oil for the black market.

Nigeria, a top oil supplier to the U.S., produces about 2.4 million barrels of crude oil a day.

Earlier this year, a United Nations’ report criticized Shell and the Nigerian government for contributing to 50 years of pollution in the Niger Delta. The report stated that the area needs the world’s largest ever oil clean-up, which would cost $1 billion and take 30 years to complete.

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