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Oil Spills in Nigeria


“Half a World From the Gulf, a Spill Scourge 5 Decades Old” (front page, June 17), reporting that spills are a major problem in the Niger Delta, misses crucial context that explains why they happen.

You make a comparison between the Exxon Valdez spill and Nigeria. The two are completely different. The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria is the largest oil producer in the Niger Delta. In terms of volume, spills due to human error or equipment failure from its facilities over the last 10 years amounted to about 5 percent of the Exxon Valdez spill volume annually.

This is not to minimize the issue. Of course, any oil spill is a serious concern, and Shell works hard to reduce those within its control. It replaces equipment and hundreds of miles of pipelines each year. It compensates people affected, and it cleans up all spills, whatever the cause, as quickly and thoroughly as possible in an environmentally friendly way.

But most of the oil spilled from its facilities is because of sabotage and large-scale theft. These two causes accounted for 98 percent of its spill volume in 2009. Real progress to stop this won’t happen without solutions to the root causes of widespread discontent in the delta. The very real security problems put our staff at risk and make it impossible to clean up spills as fast as we would like.

Mutiu Sunmonu
Managing Director, Shell Petroleum
Development Company of Nigeria
Lagos, Nigeria, June 17, 2010

A version of this letter appeared in print on June 22, 2010, on page A26 of the New York edition.


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