* Around 20,000 barrels, worst spill since Exxon in 1998
* Field produces 10 pct of Nigerian oil exports
* Shell says will complete investigation before restart
By Tim Cocks and Emma Farge
LAGOS/LONDON, Dec 22 Nigerian authorities
were putting emergency measures in place on Thursday to prevent
an oil spill from a Royal Dutch Shell facility, the
biggest leak in Nigeria for more than 13 years, washing up on
its densely populated coast.
Tuesday's spill, which Shell said happened while a tanker
was loading oil, has led to the complete shutdown of the
company's 200,000 barrel per day (bpd) Bonga facility, about 120
kilometres off the coast of the West African nation.
Shell's pipelines in Nigeria's onshore Niger delta have
spilled several times, which it usually blames on sabotage
attacks and oil theft, though it did not in this case.
"It's comparable to what happened in 1998 with the Exxon
Mobil spill, in terms of the quantity that has been
spilled, it's the biggest since then," Peter Idabor, director of
Nigeria's National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency
(NOSDRA), told Reuters by telephone from the capital Abuja.
In 1998, some 40,000 barrels leaked from a ruptured Mobil
pipeline off the coast of Nigeria.
"We have in the region of 20,000 barrels that has been
spilled into the environment ... and is clearly moving to our
coastline," Idabor added.
He said 210 tonnes of dispersants were on the way to deal
with the spill and that oil booms - containers made from sheets
of plastic that trap the oil to stop it reaching the shore - had
"We are a lot more prepared than we were in 1998," he said.
But he added that local fishermen living along the coast had
been advised to move away.
"For the fishermen who are there, there is a lot of wave
action. Of course, our advice would be for them to move away up
to areas of water less affected."
The Anglo-Dutch oil major said "less than 40,000 barrels of
oil" had leaked into the ocean in this latest spill. The flow of
oil had now halted, a company spokesman said on Wednesday.
Around half of the spilled oil had now dissipated due to
natural dispersion and evaporation, Shell said in a statement on
Bonga accounts for around 10 percent of monthly oil flows
from OPEC member Nigeria, the continent's largest exporter of
crude oil, according to Reuters data.
A Shell spokesman said on Thursday there is not yet any
restart date for the field and that it will not resume
production until after both an investigation and any necessary
repairs have been completed.
"To accelerate the clean-up at sea, we are deploying vessels
with dispersants to break up the oil sheen at sea. We are
mobilising airplanes that will support the vessels in this
operation," Shell's country chairman in Nigeria, Mutiu Sunmonu
said, after apologising for the leak the previous day.
The oil major's website has a series of photographs taken at
the site, showing a rainbow-coloured oil sheen on the ocean's
BP's Macondo well ruptured in April last year,
causing nearly 5 million barrels of oil to spew into the sea in
what was the worst U.S. marine oil spill.
Bonga was due to load around 161,000 bpd on five tankers in
January, according to oil loading programmes and its closure has
boosted prices for other Nigerian crude grades.
A U.N. report in August criticised Shell and the Nigerian
government for contributing to 50 years of pollution in a region
of the Niger Delta which it says needs the world's largest ever
oil clean-up, costing an initial $1 billion and taking up to 30