Published on Monday, April 23, 2012 by Common Dreams

Shell’s Wildly Inaccurate Reporting of Niger Delta Oil Spill Exposed

Spill 60 times bigger than Shell maintains

- Common Dreams staff

A Shell oil spill on the Niger delta was at least 60 times greater than the company had reported at the time of the spill in 2008, according to an independent assessment obtained by Amnesty International and the Center for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD).

Shell employees Fishing boats lie abandoned in oil-polluted water near Bodo, Nigeria. (Photo: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty) Shell’s official investigation had greatly under-reported the spill, claiming that only 1,640 barrels of oil were spilled in total.

Based on the independent assessment revealed by Amnesty, the total amount of oil spilled over the 72 day period was actually between 103,000 barrels and 311,000 barrels.

The previously unpublished assessment, revealed that between 1,440 and 4,320 barrels of oil flooded into the Bodo, a Niger Delta town of some 69,000 people, area each day.

This week thousands of activists across the world are taking part in events and protests calling on Shell to clean up its act in the Niger Delta, which remains vastly polluted from the spill.

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Amnesty International: Shell’s Wildly Inaccurate Reporting of Niger Delta Oil Spill Exposed

“The difference is staggering: even using the lower end of the Accufacts estimate, the volume of oil spilt at Bodo was more than 60 times the volume Shell has repeatedly claimed leaked,” said Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International.

Shell’s oil spill investigation report also claims that the spill started on 5 October 2008 – while the community and Nigerian regulators have confirmed a start date of 28 August 2008.

What is not in dispute is that Shell did not stop the spill until 7 November – four weeks after it claims it began – and 10 weeks after the start date given by the community and the regulator.

“Even if we use the start date given by Shell, the volume of oil spilt is far greater than Shell recorded,” said Audrey Gaughran. [...]

The publication of the independent assessment coincides with a global week of action in which people from across the world are calling on Shell to stop hiding from the devastating impact of its operations in the Niger Delta on people’s lives and the environment. [...]

This week thousands of activists in more than fourteen countries – from Japan to Sweden, Senegal to the USA, as well as in Shell’s home countries the Netherlands and the United Kingdom - are taking part in events and protests, including outside Shell’s offices and petrol stations, calling on Shell to clean up its act in the Niger Delta.

The week will reach a climax when affected communities stage a peaceful demonstration outside Shell’s offices in Port Harcourt in the Niger Delta.

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The Guardian: Shell Nigeria oil spill '60 times bigger than it claimed'

According to Shell, the 2008 spill from a faulty weld on a pipeline resulted in 1,640 barrels of oil being spilt into the creeks near the town of Bodo in Ogoniland. The figure was based on an assessment agreed at the time by the company, the government oil spill agency, the Nigerian oil regulator and a representative of the community.

But a previously unpublished assessment, carried out by independent US oil spill consultancy firm Accufacts, suggests that between 103,000 barrels and 311,000 barrels of oil were flooding into the Bodo creeks every day for as long as 72 days following the leak. Accufacts arrived at the figure following analysis of video footage of the leak taken at the time by local people. This suggested that between one and three barrels of oil were leaking every minute. A similar method was used by spill assessors to gauge the scale of the BP Deepwater spill underwater in the gulf of Mexico in 2010.

"The difference is staggering: even using the lower end of the Accufacts estimate, the volume of oil spilt at Bodo was more than 60 times the volume Shell has repeatedly claimed leaked," said Audrey Gaughran, director of global issues at Amnesty International. [...]

The amount of oil spilled by Shell at Bodo will be key to a high court case expected to be heard in London later in 2012. Shell is being sued by nearly 11,000 Bodo inhabitants, who say their lives were devastated by the spill which destroyed their fishing grounds, caused long-lasting ill health and polluted fresh water sources. The community, represented by the London law firm Leigh Day, is thought to be seeking more than $150m (£93m) to clean up the creeks, which, even four years after the spill, remain coated in oil.

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Reuters: Shell Nigeria spill 60 times worse than said -Amnesty

The Amnesty accusation is based on footage of one of the oil leaks sent to Washington State-based research company Accufacts, which examined the flow rate from the film and found it to be between one and three barrels a minute.

Amnesty extrapolated that the total oil spilled "over the 72 day period is between 103,000 barrels and 311,000 barrels." [...]

A letter from them to Amnesty obtained by Reuters said "the oil release rate in the video is ... 1 to 3 barrels a minute, largely driven by ... girth weld leak failures."

"It is also worth noting that once the leak started, the leak rate would not decrease for some time, until the operator discovered the release and ... evacuated the pipeline."

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