British supreme court hears Nigerians’ case in Shell oil spill claim

Britain’s supreme court will hear Nigerian farmers and fishermen appeal to pursue claims against oil major Shell over spills in the Niger Delta. The appeal re-opens the possibility for British multinationals to be held liable at home for their subsidiaries’ actions abroad. It comes after a setback in 2018 when a London court ruled that the claim could not be pursued in England.

The Ogale and Bille communities allege that Shell’s oil operations have polluted their land and waters. They are seeking justice through British courts because cases heard in Nigeria can take decades to resolve, said Leigh Day, the law firm representing the farmers and fishermen.

The main question for the courts is whether they have jurisdiction over claims against Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary Shell Petroleum Development Company, which is jointly operated with the Nigerian government. Shell’s subsidiary has said “claims by Nigerian communities against a Nigerian company about events in Nigeria should be heard in Nigeria and not the UK”. The Nigerian unit says the spills are chiefly due to oil theft, sabotage and illegal refining. The communities maintain they cannot seek redress locally.

Meanwhile Nigeria raised its July official selling prices for Bonny Light and Qua Iboe crude to dated Brent plus 19 cents and plus 22 cents per barrel, respectively, reflecting a stronger market. Loading programmes for August also started to emerge and point to lower supply, in line with Nigeria’s commitment to cut output further following an OPEC-led supply cut deal. The Qua Iboe stream will load just six cargoes. Bonny Light and Qua Iboe were still being offered at dated Brent plus 50 cents to $1.00, depending on loading dates, a trader said. Qua Iboe, will export six cargoes in August, a trade source said citing a preliminary loading programme, down one from July’s schedule. The drop in planned exports could reflect Nigeria’s pledge to the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies to deepen oil output cuts in later months, after failing to meet fully its supply cut commitments in May. Assuming a standard cargo size of 950,000 barrels, Qua loadings will average 184,000 barrels per day in August, down from 215,000 bpd in July.

According to market report India’s oil imports in May hit the lowest since Oct 2011 as refiners with brimming storage cut purchases after a continuous decline in fuel demand, preliminary data obtained from industry sources showed. In May, India imported 3.18 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil, a decline of about 31% from April and about 26% from a year ago, the data showed. Hit by an unexpected fall in demand due to lockdown measures to contain the novel coronavirus, Indian refiners in April filled tanks with cheaper oil, sold extra cargoes to the federal government for strategic reserves and declared force majeure on crude imports. The refiners, which normally book cargoes one-to-two months in advance, also deferred some term cargoes scheduled for lifting in April. In May, Saudi Arabia was the top oil supplier to India for a second consecutive month, although supplies from the kingdom declined by nearly 28% from April, the data showed. 

India’s oil imports from Iraq fell by 43% to about 554,000 bpd, the lowest since Oct 2016, the data compiled by Reuters showed. The intake of Venezuelan oil in May fell to the lowest since June 2011. Reliance Industries, operator of the world’s biggest refining complex, received 2 million barrels of oil from Venezuela. Another private refiner Nayara Energy, part-owned by Russian oil major Rosneft, did not import from the Latin American nation in May, under pressure from the U.S. sanctions against Venezuelan national oil company PDVSA. Venezuela and other producing nations in a grouping known as OPEC+ have agreed output cuts to try to stabilise international oil markets. Oil from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) as a share of India’s imports fell to an all-time low of 71.3%, while the share of U.S. oil hit a record high of nearly 8% in May. India’s oil imports in June are set to recover as refiners have raised crude processing and demand is recovering with the gradual resumption of transport and industrial activity.


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