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THISDAY ONLINE: Hofmeister: Shell Committed to Ending Gas Flaring

From Constance Ikokwu in Washington, D.C., 02.18.2008

Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) has said it is still committed to ending gas flaring, more than a month after the January 2008 deadline expired. An earlier deadline in 2007 was shifted to this year.

The January deadline saw oil companies lobby hard to have it pushed to another year, raising doubt about their commitment to ending the harmful practice.

President of Shell in the United States (US), Dr John Hofmeister, has explained that the multinational oil company is determined even after it failed to achieve this important objective for more than 30 years of drilling oil in the country.

“Our commitment was and remains genuine. Conditions have changed during the course of time. We have spent billions of dollars in attempting to end gas flaring. We are prepared to spend more funds to end the gas flaring. But because there are areas we can no longer operate or where we can protect the infrastructure that is necessary to end the flaring, we have to take more time.

“And we regret that it takes more time, but we can’t ask our staff to work under unsafe conditions. We will simply work with the communities and the government. Our goal remains the same, to end flaring,” he stated.

Responding to questions after the presentation of his report titled: “A National Dialogue on Energy Security: The Shell Final Report,” at the US Chamber of Commerce in Washingon, D.C., Hofmeister said the issues in Nigeria were complicated.

‘Criminal gangs’ that ‘arm themselves’ make operations in the Niger Delta difficult for oil companies, he stated.

He said the inability of Shell to gain access to destroyed oil fields for the purpose of rebuilding undermined efforts to end gas flaring.

Gas flaring however predates the existence of militant groups in the Niger Delta. Their activities, mostly hostage-taking and kidnapping have only become common in recent years.

Asked if Shell has a new target date, Hofmeister simply said: “We are determined to be a positive player in Nigeria.”

While the Nigerian government waits for Shell and other oil companies operating in the region to get their act together on the issue, the people of the Niger Delta suffer the immediate and long-term consequences.

Gas flaring burns off gas and releases poison into the atmosphere. Some communities do not know darkness as huge balls of fire from flaring gas burns non-stop for many hours. Some of the fires are reportedly close to farms and homes that people feel the heat.

Nigeria is second to Russia in flaring the highest quantity of gas in the world. About 2.5 billion cubic feet per day of gas is flared on a daily basis. The World Bank estimates that Nigeria loses about $2.5 billion a year to this practice.

http://www.thisdayonline.com/nview.php?id=103610

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