Home Creeks to sea: following Nigeria’s oil flows

Creeks to sea: following Nigeria’s oil flows

December 2019-April 2020


This project pilots a new method to track maritime imports and exports of oil in Nigeria, by using public, satellite, and industry standard maritime intelligence data. There is limited trust in data-sets currently available to the public, which is a barrier to an accurate understanding of Nigerian crude oil exports and refined product imports. Nigeria is understood to lose billions of dollars from the theft of oil each year, which is aided by a lack of accurate data.


This project aims to take the first step to improve the transparency and reliability of data available on oil movements in Nigeria by evaluating the potential of a new method to track maritime movements of crude and refined products.

This project also aims to reveal how government, the international community, and civil society may be able to use this data, if it were later developed, to help them ensure Nigerian citizens get a fair deal for their country’s natural resources.

Key activities

  • A review and assessment of existing data-sets and sources.
  • A research report establishing the potential for the piloted method to be expanded and used to track crude and refined petroleum product imports and exports by sea.
  • A policy brief based on the findings of the report.
  • A stakeholders’ workshop to validate the approach and findings of the research report.


It is believed that Nigeria may be losing a substantial amount of crude oil in several ways, including crude obtained from punctured pipelines that crisscross the Niger Delta (which is artisanally refined domestically, as well as sold for export), the manipulation of data on crude oil ‘lifting’, and the lack of transparency over production swaps. The Nigerian government, oil companies, civil society, and others estimate differing quantities of oil lost in these ways. In the absence of wellhead metering, transparent oil swap agreements, and independently verified import/export volumes etc., there is limited trust in publicly available data-sets on volume analysis of crude oil production and export/import of petroleum products in Nigeria. It is likely that overall losses are in the region of 5%-20% of daily production, but without reliable, transparent data, it is difficult to locate and address the problem. This is potentially a huge loss to the Nigerian treasury (amounting to billions of US dollars), as well as Nigerian citizens, and legitimate oil industry operations.

Therefore, addressing illicit oil export and import-related activities is fundamental to economic stability of the nation. In this, providing reliable data to government and other key actors to better track the actual movement of refined and crude products becomes very key to improving the nation’s revenue generation drive.

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Project resources

Funders and Partners

Published: 11.02.2020