Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC) will shortly start monitoring its pipelines and wellheads in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria through drones, according to a local media report.

The oil major has decided to acquire drones due to frequent attacks on its pipelines, leading to substantial revenue losses from activities of oil thieves and pipeline vandals, Premium Times online newspaper reported, citing SPDC's General Manager, External Relations, Igo Weli.

Oil thieves punctured SPDC pipelines and wellheads, redirecting crude oil to their illegal refining sites, the report said.

"To this end, we have signed a contract, and soon we will start using drones to monitor our pipelines, wellheads and other facilities," Weli said.

He added that frequent attacks on its oil and gas facilities by organised criminals had worsened over the years, resulting in the company spending considerable funds to protect its facilities.

SPDC builds cages and installs technology to protect its wellheads. Additionally, it flies helicopters daily to check the pipelines, which is a considerable cost to the company.

The Trans Niger Pipeline, which was shut down in March, will only be reopened when the facility is secured from attacks, the executive said.

SPDC is the largest Shell company in Nigeria and produced the country's first commercial oil exports in 1958. It focuses on onshore and shallow water oil and gas production in the Niger Delta, according to the company's website.

(Editing by Brinda Darasha;