Environment

Nigeria Oil Spill Coats River As Hundreds Of Yearly Leaks Continue To Devastate Ecosystem

Creeks and vegetations devastated as a result of spills from oil thieves in the Niger Delta on March 22, 2013. Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) has threatened to shut down production in April for nine days in the entire Nembe Creek Truck Line (NCTL) to remove a number of bunkering points on pipelines vandalised by oil thieves in the region. 'Whenever we observe a spill, or have a spill on our lines, we shut down production to depressurize and isolate the line, only then can we safely repare our lines because it is then safe to manipulate the line', said Jurgen Jonzen, SPDC corporate pipeline asset manager. Last year, 157 bunkering points were removed and 116 were leaking on the whole SPDC exploitation. Since 2009, SPDC has exprienced an upsurge in vandalisation of pipeline network by criminals causing severe environmental devastation of the region and forcing the company to lose 60 000 barrels daily this year. AFP PHOTO / PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)
Creeks and vegetations devastated as a result of spills from oil thieves in the Niger Delta on March 22, 2013. Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) has threatened to shut down production in April for nine days in the entire Nembe Creek Truck Line (NCTL) to remove a number of bunkering points on pipelines vandalised by oil thieves in the region. 'Whenever we observe a spill, or have a spill on our lines, we shut down production to depressurize and isolate the line, only then can we safely repare our lines because it is then safe to manipulate the line', said Jurgen Jonzen, SPDC corporate pipeline asset manager. Last year, 157 bunkering points were removed and 116 were leaking on the whole SPDC exploitation. Since 2009, SPDC has exprienced an upsurge in vandalisation of pipeline network by criminals causing severe environmental devastation of the region and forcing the company to lose 60 000 barrels daily this year. AFP PHOTO / PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)

By Tife Owolabi

YENAGOA, Nigeria, Dec 2 (Reuters) - A large oil spill near Nigeria's Brass facility, run by ENI, has spread through the sea and swamps of the oil producing Niger Delta region, local residents and the company said on Monday.

ENI said it was not yet possible to determine the cause of the spill.

There are hundreds of leaks every year from pipelines that pass through the delta's creeks, damaging the environment and the profits of oil companies including ENI and Royal Dutch Shell , especially when production has to be deferred.

Vast stretches of the delta's unique mangrove swamps are blackened and dead from oil pollution.

"During loading operations on a tanker on Nov. 27, an oil spill in the sea was seen. Operations were immediately suspended and resumed only after it was verified that the vessel's structures were not damaged and were not leaking," the company said in an emailed statement.

Nigerian legislators are considering a law to impose new fines on operators responsible for oil spills, a measure that could land major foreign companies with penalties running into tens of millions of dollars a year.

Francis Clinton Tubo Ikagi, chairman of the Odioama fishing community in Bayelsa, where a large part of the Niger river fans out through creeks into the Atlantic, told journalists on the scene that he saw a large oil slick on Nov. 20.

"I saw a very thick layer of crude oil on the river," he said. "The community is affected seriously. Our women and men whose main livelihood source is fishing are complaining bitterly to us that the whole river is full of oil."

Many oil spills are caused by theft and pipeline sabotage, a crime committed daily in the Niger Delta, where millions live in poverty. A number of spills are also caused by loading accidents or decrepit infrastructure.

Oil companies are required to fund the clean-up of each spill and usually pay compensation to local communities affected, if it was clearly the company's fault.

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