Brief: 2018 Nigerian oil industry environmental performance index


This report provides a comparative assessment of the environmental performance of 43 oil companies operating in Nigeria in 2018. This is the first environmental performance index (the Index) by SDN. It is based on the amount of oil spilled and gas flared (burnt off) by each company in the Niger Delta states of Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Edo, Delta, Imo, and Rivers. This data is sourced from the environmental monitoring tools of the Nigerian National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA).

Key messages

  • In total, a minimum of 25,308 barrels of oil are estimated to have been spilled in the Niger Delta in 2018, in 617 incidents. The average spill size was 41 barrels, or more than 6,500 litres, of oil. More than a quarter of all known oil spilled in 2018 was spilled in two Local Government Areas—Warri South-West, in Delta State, and Abua-Odual, in Rivers State.
  • Oil companies operating in Nigeria flared an estimated 440 billion cubic feet of gas in 2018. This is equivalent to a quarter of Nigeria’s 2017 CO2 emissions, or more than the entire emissions of Ghana in the same year.
  • In absolute terms, the highest oil spill and gas flare emissions tended to be generated by major international oil companies, as well as the state-owned oil company, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). This is unsurprising, as they also tend to have higher production volumes.
  • Consequently, a small number of companies were responsible for the majority of emissions: 92% of recorded oil spilled is attributable to five companies (Aiteo, Eni, Heritage, NNPC, and Shell), while 50% of gas flared is attributable to only two companies, ExxonMobil and NNPC.
  • However, local operators tended to have higher emissions relative to the volume of oil they produced. The Nigerian companies Express Petroleum and Summit Oil generated the highest emissions per barrel of oil produced.
  • Overall, the Nigerian oil industry compares poorly with other oil industries. Placing data on Nigerian environmental emissions against the data from elsewhere makes clear that the amount of oil spilled and gas flared by the Nigerian oil industry is far higher, on a per-unit basis, than the African and global average.
  • There are major discrepancies among data sources on Nigerian oil issues. Comparing news reports on specific oil spill incidents with official data on the same incidents demonstrates, for example, that there are challenges in confirming their size. Similarly, one NNPC publication reports a total figure of more than 76,000 barrels of “pipeline crude oil loss” for 2018, without further explanation. This is three times as high as the data from NOSDRA’s Oil Spill Monitor (OSM), the source of data for this report. There are also differences in gas flare volumes. As such, our analysis is indicative only, but our working assumption is that the true extent of the release of potentially harmful substances into the Niger Delta’s natural environment is much higher.
  • To develop a clearer picture of industry-related emissions in Nigeria, greater transparency from government and industry is needed. This should include, for example, oil companies publishing their own annual account oil spills and other emissions, disaggregated by location, type of loss, volume, reported cause, and with a detailed description of impact, as a minimum. Publishing this data would help inform action to address environmental concerns and build mutual trust and accountability among all oil industry stakeholders.

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