Letter: Ethics, profits and plain business sense

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Sir: As a PhD student writing on the oil industry in Nigeria, I doubt Shell's sincerity in its recent promises ("Shell pledges to stop flares in Nigeria", 14 May).

Shell promised in 1996 to cut out all unnecessary gas flaring by 2008. To achieve this target, Shell is planning a number of gas projects, especially the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project to start using gas in 1999. Other planned projects include a methanol plant, a gas-to-syncrude conversion unit and an ethylene cracker for petrochemicals.

However, the LNG project, the only Shell gas project currently under way, is primarily a profit-maximising venture that has little regard for the environment. Of the 950-million cubic feet per day of gas that the project will use, only 32 per cent will come from currently flared or reinjected gas; the remaining 68 per cent will come from specially developed gas deposits. This compares with 2,000 million cf/d flared in Nigeria at the moment, which is in Shell's own words enough "to meet the needs of a small industrialised country like Holland".

Shell must change its internal organisation and allow external monitoring, if we are to regain trust in its management.

GEORGE FRYNAS

Department of Economics

University of St Andrews

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