18 April 2012, Sweetcrude, LONDON – Multinational Royal Dutch Shell says it is planning a $4 billion investment in onshore projects in Nigeria to help capture natural gas currently burning at oil wells in the country.
Indeed, Shell, in its latest Sustainability Report on its official website, confessed to emitting as much as 6.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide through gas flaring in Nigeria in 2011.
Gas flaring contributes to global warming and can sicken those living nearby.
Shell’s chief executive officer, Peter Voser, who disclosed the plan on Wednesday in London, also said the company’s oil production rose to about 800,000 barrels a day in 2011, up after years of militant activity in the Niger Delta region cut its output.
At the peak of its operation in oil-rich Nigeria, before the advent of militancy in the Niger Delta, Shell was pumping a million barrels of oil per day.
Voser said the investments in natural gas by his company, long the dominant foreign oil company operating in Nigeria, would support efforts to cut down on the gas flaring.
“We expect these to be completed in the 2014 to 2015 timeframe, subject to approval by partners and the security situation,” Voser said in his speech, which Shell released on its website.
Environmentalists describe flaring as one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases which cause global warming.
Those living in the Niger Delta say the burning contributes to acid rain and causes respiratory illnesses.
Also, flaring leaves their fishing villages bathed in light at all hours and kills the fish living among the creeks and swamps of the roughly 51,800-square kilometre (20,000-square mile) delta.
Nigeria flared off 15.2 billion cubic meters of natural gas in 2010 alone, second only to Russia, according to World Bank estimates.
Oil production at oil fields run by Shell’s local subsidiary, in partnership with the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, has risen in recent years as well.
But, Voser was of the view that security situation remains uncertain in Nigeria, where militants still attack pipelines and thieves steal crude despite a 2009 amnesty deal. Voser said gunmen killed two contractors working with Shell last year.
Crude oil thefts also continue to rise, with Voser estimating that as much as 150,000 barrels of day are stolen.
He calculates that, that amount of crude, when sold on the black market or refined into diesel or kerosene, is worth $7 billion at current market rates.
Shell, as well as other foreign firms, increasingly blame oil thefts for much of the oil spills in the delta.
But, Shell’s offshore Bonga facility saw nearly 40,000 barrels of oil spilled in an industrial accident in December.
Nigeria, which produces about 2.4 million of barrels of oil a day, is a top crude oil supplier to the U.S.