UPDATED: SPDC Laments Crude Oil Theft Has Become Organized Crime In N’Delta…Deploys HD Aerial Cameras, Seeks Stakeholders’ Collaboration


Nigeria’s leading energy giant, the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC), has expressed concern over the menace of crude oil theft, pipeline vandalism in the Niger Delta region and its attendant effects on the nation’s economy.

SPDC’s officials who stated this on Monday at a one-day media workshop for journalists in Warri, Delta State, however disclosed that, as a measure to curb the menace, state-of-the-art high definition cameras for quick detection of and response to crude oil spills from its facilities have been deployed across the Niger Delta region.

“The thieves are getting more ingenious in their theft menace each day. Some just go and cut our pipelines into pieces just to sell the steel without looking at the consequences to their lives in case of an explosion or spill to the environment.

“They (Vandals) device all manner of methods just to steal the oil. Sometimes they just bring in a large vessel and connect it directly to the pipeline and siphon crude from it. It is an organized crime but who knows those involve in it. This is organized theft, but there is no justification that bring about the number of crude oil that is stolen from us”, officials said while giving a graphic details of the nefarious activities of oil thieves in the region.

BIGPEN Online reports that SPDC’s General Manager, Igo Weli who was represented at the event by Government and Community Relations Manager, Alaye Dokubo, said, that the cameras deployed would also help in tracking vandalism of SPDC joint venture assets.

The joint venture (SPDC JV) is between the government-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation – NNPC (55% share), SPDC (30%), Total E&P Nigeria Ltd (10%) and the ENI subsidiary Agip Oil Company Limited (5%).

Addressing journalists at the workshop, Weli hinted that the daily loss of over 11,000 barrels of oil per day in 2018 and the threat to the integrity of the joint venture assets, necessitated the multi-pronged approach to protecting what he called ‘critical national assets.’

In doing so, he said that SPDC had implemented anti-theft protection mechanisms on key infrastructure, such as wellheads and manifolds to stem constant attacks from vandals and thereby prevent and minimize sabotage-related spills.

According to him, “The cameras (deployed) are attached to specialized helicopters which carry out daily overflight over our facilities. This measure has improved the surveillance of our Joint Venture assets.”

He also disclosed, “We collaborate with community leaders, traditional rulers, civil societies and state governments in the Niger Delta to implement several initiatives and partnerships to raise awareness on the negative impact of crude oil theft and illegal oil refining.

“Such public enlightenment programmes on the negative impacts to people and the environment help to build greater trust in spill response and clean-up processes.”

Weli noted that SPDC would sustain its air and ground surveillance to complement the efforts of government security forces in checking crude theft, pipeline vandalism and illegal refining.

 “But for the efforts of Operation Delta Safe in protecting critical oil and gas assets, the situation would have gone beyond control, Weli said, whilst, he called on the Operation Delta Safe, a special oil and gas asset protection force, and other government security forces to intensify their activities around oil and gas facilities.

In its June 2019 monthly report, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation which controls Nigeria’s 55 percent interest in the SPDC JV had also reported a 77% rise in oil pipeline vandalism and that 106 pipeline breaches were recorded in June, up from 60 in May.

Also speaking at the workshop, SPDC’s General Manager, Safety and Environment, Chidube Nnene-Anochie, noted that the majority of spill incidents on SPDC pipelines were as a result of sabotage.

“We are burdened by the continuous increase in cases of sabotage and theft. Oil spills due to theft and sabotage of facilities as well as illegal refining, cause the most environmental damage from oil and gas operations in the Niger Delta.”

According to Nnene-Anochie,  SPDC removed more than 1,160 illegal theft points from its pipelines between 2012 and end of 2018, adding that the attendant spills from the theft points were sometimes made worse by challenges of access to the incident sites to investigate and stop leaks.

“We track the progress of our spill response from when we learn about the leak to when clean-up is completed and certified by regulators.”

Represented by SPDC’s Compliance Monitoring Lead, Temitope Ajibade, Nnene-Anochie, said no spill was acceptable to the company.

“A key priority for Shell companies in Nigeria remains to achieve the goal of no spills from our operations. No spill is acceptable, and we work hard to prevent them. However, SPDC cleans and remediates areas impacted by spills from its facilities irrespective of the cause.”

Other steps aimed at stemming crude theft, she explained, include SPDC promotion of alternative livelihoods through Shell’s flagship youth entrepreneurship programme, Shell LiveWIRE.

“Between 2003 when Shell LiveWIRE was launched in Nigeria and now, the programme has trained 7,072 Niger Delta youths in enterprise development and provided business start-up grants to 3,817.