Shell admits underestimation of oil spilled in Nigeria in 2008

In 2012, 11000 Nigerian farmers brought a case to court in the UK in which they claimed that Royal Dutch Shell1 caused two severe oil spills in 2008 in southern Nigeria and contaminated around 35 sq miles (90 sq km), partly inhabiting sensitive mangroves2. The affected stakeholders are mainly farmers and fishermen due to the destruction of their working environment which affectected their business3.

The oil giant admitted that it had underestimated the severity of the oil spill.3 It announced that it is far larger than the 4144 barrels that had been assumed to have leaked from the pipeline, but did not provide an accurate number.3 According to research carried out by Amnesty International, the amount of oil that has destroyed the environment sums up to 100,000 barrels, which is 25 times the amount that Shell stated.4

Shell denied that it had knowingly continued using the pipeline in spite of severe safety issues and possible dangers to humans and the environment2.

Letters and emails written by senior employees prove that concerns about further operating the pipeline were there. Prior to the accident in 2008, the managing director of Shell Nigeria Basil Omiyi expressed his worries in a letter to the governor of Rivers State about the safety of the pipeline which was an issue already two years before the oil spill2.

The further use of the pipeline, in spite of the concerns was shocking to Martyn Day, a lawyer working at Leigh Day which is supporting the farmers in their lawsuit.5

Update 07.01.2015:

Shell avoided a London High Court case and agreed on a compensation payment of £55 m, £35m to farmers (£2,100 to each individual farmer) and £20m to the Bodo community. This settlement is the largest payment ever agreed upon to be paid to an African community due to environmental pollution and the first case where affected people will be compensated individually.6

According to experts, the oil spills are the largest man-made disaster of this type that have ever taken place.7


  1. Bloomberg (2014): http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-23/shell-sued-in-u-k-over-massive-oil-spills-in-nigeria-in-2008.html (accessed 20/11/2014) []
  2. BBC (2014): http://www.bbc.com/news/business-29997074 (accessed 17/11/2014) [] [] []
  3. Al Jazeera (2014): http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2014/11/shell-nigeria-oil-spill-2014111402559200478.html (accessed 17/11/2014) [] [] []
  4. EagleFordTexas (2014): http://eaglefordtexas.com/news/id/140165/new-evidence-suggests-shells-negligence-led-nigerian-pipeline-spills/ (accessed 20/11/2014) []
  5. BBC (2014): http://www.bbc.com/news/business-29997074 (accessed 17/11/2014) []
  6. The Guardian (2015): http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jan/07/shell-announces-55m-payout-for-nigeria-oil-spills (accessed 07/01/2015) []
  7. Leigh Day (2015): http://www.leighday.co.uk/News/2015/January-2015/Shell-agrees-55m-compensation-deal-for-Nigeria-Del (accessed 07/01/2015) []