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Shell’s U.S. shale woes are no match for oil bandits in Africa

Shell’s financial losses associated with oil theft and sabotage in Nigeria have emerged as a quarterly theme this year, alongside the company’s struggling North American shale gas investments.

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Joel Kirkland, E&E reporter: EnergyWire: Friday, November 22, 2013

To many, Nigeria’s claim to fame has nothing to do with its role as a major oil producer. It’s better known as the country of origin for an elaborate online fraud that starts with a polite email from a “barrister.”

For oil and gas companies operating in Nigeria, the email scams targeting unsuspecting Americans provide a tiny window into the industry’s daily operational challenges. Billions of dollars in potential revenues have been siphoned off by oil bandits in the southeastern Niger Delta region in recent years. All the while, billions more are spent by international oil companies to expand drilling and their capacity to export Nigeria’s oil and gas.

Oil production in unstable corners of the world bedevils the likes of Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Chevron Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp., all of which are deeply invested in Nigeria. The country remains the world’s 13th largest oil producer and has the largest population in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

But Nigeria is also a financial sieve to multinational oil companies that face rapidly rising capital costs. Shell’s financial losses associated with oil theft and sabotage in Nigeria have emerged as a quarterly theme this year, alongside the company’s struggling North American shale gas investments.

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