May 31, 2010

Shell takes a first step towards solving the gas flaring issue in Nigeria

by PhilLee — last modified May 31, 2010 04:50 PM

Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell has announced that it will invest 600 million dollars in gas installations to recover gas released in oil production in Nigeria.

5On May 21 2010 Shell succumbed to decades of campaigning and announced that they would finally do something about gas flaring, a practice that devastates the environment and the health of communities that live near flare sites. It also contributes significantly to climate change by pumping an estimated 400 million tons of carbon dioxide a year into the atmosphere.


For years Friends of the Earth International and many of our member groups, such as those in the Netherlands and Nigeria, have been campaigning against this outdated and wasteful practice, which has technically been illegal since 1979 under Nigerian law.


Shell’s investment will be added to by the other partners in Shell's joint venture in Nigeria - Total, Agip and the Nigerian state oil company NNCP – to a total amount of 2 billion dollars. With that, Shell says it can extinguish 26 flares. That is just under a quarter of the total numbers of flares now burning in Nigeria.


Friends of the Earth campaigners have treated the news with caution:


Geert Ritsema from Friends of the Earth Netherlands /Milieudefensie said:


"This is a small, but not insignificant step in the right direction. We will only believe it after those 26 flares have actually been extinguished. The fact is that year after year Shell has promised to extinguish the flares, and  has so far not made good on these promises. We call on Shell to keep its promise this time. Furthermore, it is the intention that all 110 flares be extinguished as quickly as possible; just under a quarter of these is only the beginning. Our campaign will continue until the last flare has been put out.’


The response by Nnimmo Bassey, director of Friends of the Earth Nigeria / ERA and Chair of Friends of the Earth International was equally cautious:


"The release by Shell certainly is a mark of success for our collective campaigns. But I can say that it is a little step coming quite late in the day. They have not given a date as to when they will switch off the flares, meaning they can keep working and keep flaring for who knows how long!"


For years, Milieudefensie and ERA have been jointly carrying out a campaign against Shell’s damaging practices in Nigeria. Increasing numbers of other international environmental and human rights organisations, as well as Shell's own shareholders, are also calling on Shell to stop this practice. During the company’s annual shareholder meeting on May 18 2010, shareholders and institutional investors also expressed their desire to see Shell improve its operational management in Nigeria.


The unnecessary flaring of gas by Shell in Nigeria emits an amount of greenhouse gases every day which is equal to half the CO2 emitted by all Dutch passenger cars. This means that Shell is making a significant contribution to the global climate problem. Residents of the Niger Delta also suffer daily from toxic emissions by the gas flares, which cause health problems and damage crops.