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Shell's gas flaring furnance in Opolo-Epie, Nigeria

By 2011, Shell opened a new gas flare and even though Nigerian law officially banned such gas combustion devices in 1984. Such practice pollutes the locals' air and environment while heavily contributes to climate change.


On March 11, 2010 Environmental Rights Action (hereafter ERA), namely Friends of the Earth Nigeria’s field monitors visited a site at Opolo-Epie, where Shell is constructing a gas flare. This trip took a course by Shell's Kolo Creek Logistic Base at Imiringi where gas flaring has been happening for many years. At Shell's Imiringi Flow Station the presence of the Military Joint Task Force prevented the monitors from going close to the facility. Pictures of the gas flare could only be safely taken from the confines of the car. The same happened at the new gas flare furnace site at Opolo-Epie, security concerns prevented the field monitors from getting too close to make their observations. At first, Shell was quick to tell the world that nothing of that sort was taking place. It actually came to pass that Shell flared gas at that very furnace (on completion) soon after ERA’s observation and report. After repeated reports, Shell put off the flare and since then ERA’s monitors and community folks have kept close watch on the site. Even though the Nigerian government has been shifting the deadline for gas flare stoppage in Nigeria because of oil companies influence, Shell completed the construction of a new gas flare furnace in Opolo-Epie, in the state of Yenagoa by 2010. By early 2011, ERA monitors visited the site. Recently some sand filling activities were observed around the gas flare furnace, linking directly with the Tombia/Amassoma Road. Community folks suspected the company might soon ignite the gas flare furnace again. Following a noticed glow in the skyline in Opolo and environs on the night of 29th July, 2011, steps were immediately taken to verify the situation and it was discovered that Shell had activated the furnace that same day. The flare was put off again after three days. This particular area is now a gas field. ERA has again been attracted to the site following the ignition of another gas flare furnace on Monday, 29th April, 2013. It is shocking to see that Shell is being permitted to construct a new gas flare furnace when they ought to be shutting down existing flare sites. This happens at a time when the rest of the world is concerned about climate change and proffering ways to curb it.“The Opolo-Epie plant is set to join at least 100 other flares burning across the swamps, creeks and forests of this oil-producing region, filling the atmosphere with toxins, seeding the clouds with acid rain and polluting the soil. Medical studies have shown the gas burners contribute to anaverage life expectancy in the Delta region of 43 years. The area also has Nigeria's highest infant mortality rate – 12% of newborns fail to see out their first year” [1]. Oil multinationals like Shell, Exxon, Chevron and Agip give their own arguments to justify the practice of gas flaring: “the absence of a domestic market, the imposition of price controls and the high cost of building infrastructure to capture and distribute natural gas have made it economically unviable for them to end flaring. They complain that they are forced to operate as minority partners in joint ventures with the NNPC, which consistently fails to provide its share of investment” [1]. By August 2011, Shell's gas furnance plant at Opolo-Epie was ignited once more and for a new period of tests, declared the multinational [4].

Basic Data
Name of conflict:Shell's gas flaring furnance in Opolo-Epie, Nigeria
State or province:Yenagoa Local government, Bayelsa State
Location of conflict:Opolo-Epie, along the Tombia/Amassoma road
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Gas flaring
Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Oil and gas refining
Specific commodities:Crude oil
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

"The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) claims to have reduced flaring to 1.9 billion standard cubic feet (bscf) per day, or 30 per cent of total production. But a confidential report by international energy consultants, seen by The Independent, puts the figure at 2.5 bscf, or 40 per cent of total production. The pollution generated from this flaring has been measured at up to 50 million tonnes of carbon dioxide." It is estimated that the gas flaring furnace of Opolo-Epie is one among a hundred of gas flaring infrastructures operating in the Niger delta. [1]. "The World Bank states that gas flaring decreased in 2009 in Nigeria from 21.3 billion cubic metres to 15.2 billion cubic metres. However, one of the major offenders, the Shell Petroleum Development Company (Shell), admitted that their flares went up 33% in 2010 compared to their 2009 figure. This clearly shows that whatever may have caused the decrease in 2009, it was not likely a result of the oil companies’ actions to curb the practice" [2]. Even though Nigeria has officially banned gas flaring in 1984, "According to the World Bank’s rankings Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership from July 2018, Nigeria is the sixth largest gas flaring country globally, and the second largest in Africa after Algeria, moving up from the seventh global flarer the year before" [3].

Project area:Unknown
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:2010
Company names or state enterprises:Royal Dutch Shell (Shell) from Netherlands
Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) from Nigeria
Relevant government actors:NOSDR, the federal Ministry of the Environment
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN)
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local scientists/professionals
International experts on gas and oil extraction
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Oil spills, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Fires, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Global warming, Soil contamination
Health ImpactsVisible: Other Health impacts, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Other Health impactsContamination, breathing disturbances
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Withdrawal of company/investment
Development of alternatives:1. ERA hopes the relevant authorities will ensure this project is halted before it contributes further to the pollution and degradation of our environment.
2. That routine flaring of gas in Nigeria be stopped.
3. That fine heavier than what presently obtains be paid by those who flare, no matter how little.
4. That Environmental/Human Rights groups and the media should continue to monitor the environment. Findings must be reported and campaigns sustained till gas flares are halted in Nigeria.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:Although gas flaring has been declared a violation to human rights and still continues in the community, Shell has shut down the gas flare furnace.
Sources and Materials
Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Shell fails to stop nigeria flaring, again, May 2007
[click to view]

Shell allays Opolo community's concerns over another gas flare
[click to view]

Niger Delta Watch
[click to view]

[2] Making profits while gas continues to flare, November 2012
[click to view]

[1] The Independent "Visible from space, deadly on earth: the gas flares of Nigeria"
[click to view]

Independent (UK) says Shell’s Opolo-Epie facility is newest gas flare in Nigeria - flares allegedly have negative impacts on environment, life expectancy, infant mortality, Business & Human Rights resource centre
[click to view]

GAS FLARING: We can’t sleep, our homes cracking, Bayelsa villagers cry out, September 2018
[click to view]

[4] Gas flare:SPDC clarirfies re-ignited Opolo-Epie furnace in Bayelsa, August 2011
[click to view]

[3] SPECIAL REPORT: Nigeria’s gas flares increase ahead 2020 deadline, November 2018
[click to view]

Shell allay Opolo community’s concerns over another gas flare, April 2010
[click to view]

Other documents

[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Afoke Ohwojeheri
Last update06/05/2019
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