The authorities should help save the nation by ensuring gas flaring ends by 2030
The programme coordinator of the Nigeria Gas Flare Commercialisation Programme in the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources said recently that of the 16,000 flare sites across the world, Nigeria has 178, going by a recent verification exercise conducted by the World Bank, United States Agency for International Development and the Canadian government. Aside the enormous waste in financial resources, the health hazards of such a huge number of flares in a small territory within the Niger Delta can only be imagined.
Gas is flared in Nigeria, essentially due to lack of technical know-how, regulatory defects, and economic constraints. Regrettably, much of this gas could have been tapped for use in solving the nation’s energy problem. But because oil companies believe that the technology is expensive, which makes flaring a cheaper option, and they enjoy the tacit support of those in authorities, nothing has been done to stop the practice beyond making empty declarations.
However, both the federal government and the oil companies cannot pretend to be unmindful of the dire health consequences suffered by the unfortunate hosts of flare sites in the Niger Delta. For instance, these communities cry about rising cases of still births, and infant mortality, as well as inexplicable deaths of women during child birth. The unfortunate situation persists because of the light penalties prescribed in various legislative measures to curb gas flaring in Nigeria since 1969.
For instance, since 1984, it has been illegal to flare gas without the written permission of the Minister of Petroleum Resources. Also, current penalties for gas flaring in Nigeria officially stand at $3.50 per 1000 standard cubic feet. Yet, in 2012, a report by the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force found that oil companies often do not pay these fines, and when they chose to, they paid the old penalty of N10 per 1000 standard cubic feet flared. Also, the task force discovered that the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) is unable to independently track and measure gas volumes produced and flared since it depends on information operators provide.
Meanwhile, Nigeria has endorsed the World Bank’s Zero Routine Flaring by 2030 Initiative, which seeks to bring together governments, oil companies, and development institutions that recognise that flaring is unsustainable from a resource management and environmental perspective. According to the World Bank, thousands of gas flares at oil production sites around the globe burn approximately 140 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually, causing more than 300 million tonnes of carbon dioxide to be emitted to the atmosphere.
Flaring of gas, the World Bank has noted, contributes to climate change and impacts the environment through emission of CO2, black carbon and other pollutants. It also wastes a valuable energy resource that could be used to advance the sustainable development of producing countries. For example, if the volume of gas being flared were used for power generation, it could provide enough electricity to power the country. While we understand that associated gas cannot always be used to produce power, it can nonetheless be utilised in a number of other productive ways or conserved.
By endorsing the World Bank Initiative, we expect that the federal government will begin to provide a legal, regulatory investment, and operating environment that is conducive to upstream investments and to the development of viable markets and the infrastructure necessary to deliver the gas to the needed markets. For that objective to be realised, the federal government must stipulate in its new prospect offers that field development plans incorporate conservation of associated gas without routine flaring. Furthermore, the federal government should make every effort to ensure that routine flaring at existing oil fields end no later than 2030.