Terry Macalister, The Guardian
STANDFIRST: Shell said in its annual report that the number of spills increased to 207 during 2011, from 195 in 2010
Shell has revealed that its global oil spill record got worse over the last year, with 207 sizeable incidents in 2011.
The revelations in the company's annual report – which shows chief executive Peter Voser earned £4.5m last year – come less than 24 hours after directors were criticised by British MPs for alleged complacency over safety plans for future drilling in the Arctic.
Shell said in its annual report that the number of "operational spills over 100 kilograms" increased to 207 during 2011 from 195 in 2010, but it admitted the figure for last year could grow.
The Anglo-Dutch group is still investigating a further four spills in Nigeria that it admits "may result in adjustments to the 2011 data". A similar adjustment was made to the 2010 number.
Among the definite spills last year was a leak from a pipeline connected to the Gannet Alpha platform in the UK North Sea plus one off the Bonga field in Nigeria.
The company said in the report that it "regrets both incidents" but added that it had taken "prompt and comprehensive response actions".
Shell is particularly vulnerable to spills in Nigeria, some of which have been caused by sabotage. It was heavily criticised over its activities by a United Nations environment programme report issued last year.
The company is still working to reduce the amount of gas flared off into the atmosphere in Nigeria. This is a major cause of greenhouse gases. Shell said in its annual report that its flaring would increase over the next year in Iraq, although it has a long-term contract to reduce the country's burning off of excess gas.
The company admitted that environmental problems it was still grappling with included 23 square kilometres of "ponds" containing toxic metals caused by the mining of tar sands at Athabasca in Alberta, Canada. Shell said it was still working with local authorities on what to do about the discovery of fresh water from a local aquifer in the bottom of one pond at the Muskeg River Mine, Athabasca.
Shell also admitted it has been – along with other energy companies – facing legal challenges over responsibility for carbon emissions and therefore climate change. It stated in the annual report that the claims were "without merit" and "not (financially) material" to the company.
Voser's pay of £4.5m last year was only very slightly down on his pay for 2010. Malcolm Brinded, who competed against Voser for the top job and missed out, is to leave the company with a ¤2.5m (£2.1m) payoff "in line with the policy introduced in 2010," according to Shell. He will also get a "pro-rated" performance bonus and the company will make good on any financial loss made on a house bought in Holland when he moved there in 2002.