"This is one of the most important stories of it's kind in Europe."
(Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell Plc said on Thursday that oil spills at its facilities in Nigeria soared last year, as it faces lawsuits in the UK regarding earlier spills.
Shell said in its annual Sustainability Report that the number of operational spills onshore increased to 63 in 2011, from 32 in 2010.
The volume of operational spills jumped to 5,300 tonnes from 700 tonnes in 2010, largely due to a leak at its offshore Bonga facility.
The volume of oil spilt onshore fell 30 percent to 500 tonnes. Shell said the higher number of spills resulted from more pipelines being put back into operation, after an improvement in the security situation allowed teams to access facilities.
Operational spills are those related to equipment failure or accidents. Spills resulting from sabotage or attempts to steal fuel from pipelines caused 118,000 tonnes to seep into the environment.
Shell is facing the prospect of an embarrassing litigation in London, from Nigerian villagers affected by oil spills in 2008, after talks on a settlement broke down last month,
The communities accuse Shell of not taking due care of its facilities and of failing to clean up spill damage and adequately compensate those impacted.
News of the spills come as Shell said an oil sheen on the water near two of its platforms in the Gulf of Mexico was not due to any leak from its facilities.