Africa’s biggest crude exporter, Nigeria has been making frenetic efforts, setting and shifting deadlines to end gas flaring over the years. The country’s unsuccessful attempts to end the hazard, despite deadlines, dates back to 1969, when General Yakubu Gowon ordered oil companies to end gas flaring by 1974. After four decades, records from the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) indicate that the country is still flaring about 24 per cent of its 7.8 billion cubic feet gas wells production per day, worth an estimated $2.5 billion annually, due to lack of infrastructure to harness the gas.
Of concern, is the revelation by the international oil companies (IOCs), that they may continue to flare substantial amount of the gas resources in the country until 2020 which, according to them, is the feasible year for the flare out deadline. The IOCs argue that it takes money to utilize this gas and the government needs to pay its own share of it since they are in joint ventures with government.
Nevertheless, Energy experts say that the continued flaring of gas in the country, amidst gas supply shortfall in the domestic market, constitutes not only an environmental disaster, but also an economic tragedy. They opine that it is an issue that needs to be addressed, but requires a lot of political will.
A report published by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) ranked Nigeria as the second highest gas flaring nation in the world, raising fresh concerns over the commitment of the federal government to realize its ‘Zero Gas Flaring’ policy. The report, noted that although government has taken practical measures to drastically reduce the waste, through a range of projects that could enhance utilization of its gas resources, its efforts have yielded minimal reduction. Admittedly, domestic flaring volumes having fallen by one-third between 2004 and 2010, but the nation still remains the second largest gas flaring country, with volumes of 15.2 bcm in 2010, which is 11 per cent of the world total. At the rate of $3.5/1,000 standard cubic feet, scf, the country incurs about $4.9 million or N784 million daily losses from flaring and gas under-utilization.
Furthermore, a World Bank sponsored study, showed that gas flaring is one such anthropogenic activity that is defined as the “wasteful emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) that causes global warming, disequilibrium of the earth, unpredictable weather changes and major natural disasters because it emits a cocktail of benzene and other toxic substances that are harmful to humans, animals, plants and the entire physical environment. In combustion, gaseous hydrocarbons react with atmospheric oxygen to form carbon dioxide (co2) which in addition to other GHGs is responsible for changes in global climate that are resulting in increasingly frequent and intense natural disasters and the spread to temperate regions of diseases once found only in the tropics.
We are aware that in the last decade, the federal government has amongst other things commenced implementation of the NGMP & strategic framework towards a wholly competitive, market driven domestic gas sector; established a transitional framework to facilitate gas access in the short to medium term, particularly for the Power sector; redefined the commercial framework for domestic gas supply to assure long term sustainability of supply, pricing and contracting; commenced implementation of a major gas-grid infrastructure to enable flexible delivery of high quality gas to power and other end users; revised the transitional pricing structure for gas-to-power; established the Department of Gas pursuant to the National Gas Supply and Pricing Regulations 2008; as well as established the Gas Aggregator to manage the implementation of the domestic gas supply obligation and to act as an intermediary between suppliers and domestic purchasers of gas.
However, we believe that much of the waste today can be converted to enormous wealth and significant amount of the environmental and health hazards drastically reduced. Hence, it government should show the willingness to really end gas flares in Nigeria by ensuring that gas policies and regulations develop and keep pace with industry operations and potentials through the expeditious enactment of the PIB.