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Royal Dutch Shell blames 6 recent spills in Nigeria’s oil-rich delta on ‘sabotage’

By Associated Press, Updated: Monday, August 22, 6:35 PM

LAGOS, Nigeria — Six recent oil spills from a Royal Dutch Shell PLC pipeline running through Nigeria’s oil-rich southern delta were the result of “sabotage,” the company said Monday, blaming another nearby spill on a similar attack.

Shell’s comments come after someone set fire to the spreading spill in recent days, and as a U.N. report suggests it could take as much as 30 years to clean another region of the country’s Niger Delta.

Shell has blamed the majority of recent spills on oil thieves and militants roaming the delta’s winding creeks. Environmentalists and locals blame the oil company for 50 years of poverty and pollution there.

The ruptures over two weeks on Shell’s 20½-mile (33-kilometer) Okordia-Rumuekpe trunk line running through Bayelsa state near Ikarama came from hacksaw cuts, according to a company statement. Someone also set fire to a spill, Shell said, adding that a group of 100 women from a nearby village blocked its staff from repairing some of the breaks.

Another spill Sunday on its nearby Adibawa line looked like it also came from hacksaw cuts, the company said, though it did not mention sabotage in that case.

“We are concerned by the increasing cases of sabotage at Ikarama and appeal to those causing these incidents to stop for the sake of the environment, their personal safety and well-being of the communities,” Shell vice president Tony Attah said in a statement.

Hacksaw cuts are a hallmark of thieves who siphon crude from lines to boil into kerosene and fuel in the makeshift refineries that dot the delta, a swampy 600-mile (more than 965-kilometer) region of mangroves and creeks about the size of South Carolina. Shell blames more than 75 percent of oil spills from its lines and facilities in the delta on sabotage and oil thieves.

However, aging pipelines also contribute to spills in a region where some environmentalists say as much as 550 million gallons of oil have poured during 50 years of production. That’s at a rate roughly comparable to one Exxon Valdez disaster per year.

Earlier this month, the United Nations’ environmental program issued a report saying it will take as much as 30 years to clean the oil-stained Ogoniland area alone. The world body suggested the Nigerian government and the oil industry set up an initial $1 billion trust fund for the cleanup.

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Online:

Royal Dutch Shell PLC: http://www.shell.com

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Jon Gambrell can be reached at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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