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Shell’s gas burn-off targets in doubt

The Times: Shell’s gas burn-off targets in doubt

By Carl Mortished, International Business Editor

June 12, 2004

SHELL was last night facing a fresh assault from environmentalists after the oil group conceded that it was struggling to end the controversial practice of burning off unwanted gas from its oil drilling platforms in Nigeria.

The practice, known as flaring, which lights up the Niger Delta and can be seen on night-time satellite images of the earth, is a major contributor to greenhouse gases and one of the most wasteful practices in the energy industry.

Shell is committed to eliminating the flaring by 2008, but its environmental report this week concedes that the goal is in doubt. The company burnt off more than 9.3 million tonnes of gas last year, a large percentage of which came from the African state.

The Shell report concludes: “Our goal of ending all continuous flaring by 2008 is looking increasingly challenging particularly in light of many projects which have to be delivered for gathering associated gas in the difficult operating circumstances in Nigeria.”

The problem is caused by the high gas content of Nigerian oil. In Europe or North America, the associated gas is collected and piped into the national gas grid, but economic mismanagement and government corruption have left Nigeria with little industry and no demand for the fuel.

Shell has tried to cut flaring in the Delta, but recurring violence in the region has hindered progress.

Increased gas flaring in Nigeria contributed to a surge in Shell’s carbon dioxide emissions last year, which rose from 106 million tonnes to 112 million tonnes.

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