An oil spill in Nigeria for which Royal Dutch Shell is being sued for tens of millions of dollars in a London court was at least 60 times worse than it announced, a report by Amnesty International said on Monday, citing research it commissioned.
A Shell spokeswoman said it was not appropriate to comment on the estimate while the spill was still the subject of litigation, adding that efforts to clean up had been hampered by insecurity in the Bodo area of the Niger Delta and by oil theft that had caused even more oil to be spilt since.
A group of 11,000 Nigerians launched a suit against Royal Dutch Shell at the London High Court last month for two oil spills in 2008/9 that they say destroyed their livelihoods.
SPDC, a Shell-run joint venture between the state oil firm, which holds 55 percent, Shell, with 30 percent, EPNL, with 10 percent and Agip, with 5 percent, admits responsibility for two spills that devastated the Bodo fishing communities in the Niger Delta, a labyrinth of creeks and swaps.
The Amnesty accusation is based on footage of one of the oil leaks sent to Washington State-based research company Accufacts, which examined the flow rate from the film and found it to be between one and three barrels a minute.
Amnesty extrapolated that the total oil spilled "over the 72 day period is between 103,000 barrels and 311,000 barrels."
The high end of Amnesty's estimate is still only half the 600,000 barrels that lawyer Martyn Day, who represents the affected Bodo communities, says may have been spilt. But it is much greater than the 1,640 barrels Shell says flowed out.
"The difference is staggering: even using the lower end of the Accufacts estimate, the volume of oil spilt at Bodo was more than 60 times the volume Shell has repeatedly claimed leaked," Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International, said in a statement.