Our response to Shell
Here is our response to some of their claims. Feel free to write back to Shell rebutting them.
a reduction in flaring by a third
In the past seven years Shell say they have reduced flaring by a third and diverted the associated gas to gas powered power stations and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) export terminals. Whilst this may be true they could do so much more. There is no plan in place to eradicate the remaining two thirds of the flare sites.
Shell offer an historical explanation as to why they flare citing that at the time the flares were erected the infrastructure wasn't in place and the technology did not exist to pipe the gas.
With regard to technology, from the beginning of Shell's operations in Nigeria they've invested millions in the technology to extract oil from remote places in the Delta. However, they chose not to invest in technology to pipe the associated gas that comes with extraction.
They also say that climate change was not an issue at the time the flares were introduced and therefore they didn't know the harm they were doing burning methane gas into the atmosphere. This was true once, but for more than two decades we've know that methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and a valuable resource.
working with the government and the security situation
It's true that the Nigerian government has a responsibility and can be a difficult business partner. Still, it was the oil companies that went into business with the government and Shell has run a very profitable business in Nigeria since the 1950's.
When it comes to Shell's core business, operational problems have been overcome. In the last year two new gas wells have been drilled and an additional two new flares have appeared. It seems that Shell can still carry out big projects in the Niger Delta when it benefits them to do so.
Shell states that there is no evidence to support our claim that flaring has a devastating impact on health.
We have proof that the flaring of natural gas, that consists of methane and a mix of impurities, causes air pollution, far above levels that are healthy according to WHO standards (see report referenced below).
The fact that oil companies are able to produce over a million barrels of oil in the Niger Delta every day, makes clear that technical and safety problems can be solved. Shell is more interested in boosting its profits than stopping flaring.
Gas flares are not the only problem the Delta has to cope with, but it is a problem that can be solved. Closing down the flares will take out one of the most visible signs of the detrimental presence of oil companies in the Delta. This step could be the start of more sustainable relations between the Niger Delta communities and the oil companies.