Shell must pay $6.5billion damages for 2011 Bonga oil spill

January 31, 2014 | Health, Safety & Environment

Map of Nigeria's Atlantic coast with the Bonga field marked in red (Map courtesy Marcel de Jong, Shell Deepwater Services Regional Study Team)

Map of Nigeria’s Atlantic coast with the Bonga field marked in red (Map courtesy Marcel de Jong, Shell Deepwater Services Regional Study Team)

Lagos, Nigeria – The Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO), a part of the Shell Companies in Nigeria (SCIN) has been ordered by the Nigerian maritime and safety agency to pay US$6.5billion compensation to communities affected by the 2011 oil spill at its Bonga oil field.

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) made the announcement at a meeting with SNEPCO and the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) organised by the Nigerian House of Representatives environment committee. The payment will go to residents of the Forcados area of the eastern Niger Delta, who claim oil from a spill in 2011 washed ashore.

On 20 December that year, about 40,000 bbl of oil leaked from a floating production, storage and off-loading (FPSO) vessel during a routine transfer of crude oil to a waiting oil tanker. It was the largest leak in the area since 1998.

According to a local newspaper, Vanguard, NIMASA’s director general Patrick Akpobolokemi further accused SNEPCO of attempting to prevent access to the spill site, and said that the company had a “nonchalant” attitude towards the spill.

Meanwhile, a SNEPCO spokesman tells Nogtec that the company refutes all the allegations. SNEPCO’s managing director Chike Onyejekwe says that satellite and aerial imagery prove that the oil from the Bonga spill could not have reached the Forcados coastline as it had dispersed. He says that the company was “surprised” to see images of what he says were a third-party spill.

“SNEPCO voluntarily, as a responsible corporate citizen, took action to clean up this spill as well, despite it having nothing to do with its operations,” he adds.

SNEPCO further added that far from obstructing government agencies in accessing spill sites, it jointly conducted sample collections with regulators and independent investigators, with approval from NOSDRA and the Department of Petroleum Resources.

Additionally, the company says it has “no evidence” to show that any community was impacted by the spill that merits compensation.

“We deeply regret that this incident took place, but as a responsible operator and corporate citizen we responded to it professionally and effectively and everything we did was with the active support of the regulatory authorities and in compliance with the applicable regulations,” says Onyejekwe.

SNEPCO was fined US$5 billion by NOSDRA in 2012 for the spill.