Gas flaring is the process by which natural gas that comes with extracting petroleum is burned off in the atmosphere. Alternative means to gas flaring includes confining the gas to storage tanks for resale, subterranean re-injection, etc. These other alternative means are usually more costly than eliminating the gas immediately. Hence, the practice of gas flaring is often done for economic reasons as the oil producers do not have to stop pumping oil. This is in spite of the potential hazards posed by gas flaring. Gas flaring has been a problem in Nigeria since the commercial exploration of crude oil in 1958. The exportation of oil accounts for more than half of the Nigerian government’s revenue. The problem still persists despite the official banning of gas flaring in Nigeria in 1984.
Gas Flaring in Nigeria: Problems & Prospects
The problems of gas flaring in Nigeria are discussed below:
The negative effects on agriculture ecosystem
Areas in Nigeria such as the Niger Delta where there is oil exploration has been severely damaged due to gas flaring. Gas flaring causes an increase in soil temperature which then negatively affects crop yield and has rendered many lands in the region barren. Farmers in the region complain that when they plant crops, it shoots up really quickly but is often barren. What is more, the water bodies have been contaminated and fish in the rivers are constantly destroyed, rainfall in the area is also black and destroys many homes. There are also no animals in the forests due to burning bushes which have forced most animals to desert he forests. Hence, villagers in that area cannot fish nor farm and have to look for other businesses as a means to survive.
People residing in communities where gas flaring occurs in Nigeria have their health affected. Exposure to air pollutants released by gas flaring has been linked to diseases such as cancer, lung damage, neurological and reproductive problems.
Due to various challenges mentioned above, there has been a rise in insurgent groups and increased security instability in areas where gas flaring occurs. Examples of this include terror groups such as Movement for Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) who destroy oil infrastructure and kidnap expatriates working with oil companies in a bid to put pressure on the government to develop their region.
Gas flaring is a major contributor to global warming because of the emission of millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The flared gas in Nigeria accounts for the emission of 16.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Solutions and Prospects to Gas flaring in Nigeria
In order to eliminate and reduce the problems caused by gas flaring, oil companies must clean up oil spills as much as possible. Oil companies should also avoid oil spills so as to prevent damage to the environment. The government should insist that oil and gas companies make the necessary infrastructure available to be able to capture and maximize their utilization.
A reason why gas flaring has not been curbed is due to not so costly penalties placed on the practice. For example, the gas-flaring charges imposed by the Associated Gas Reinjection Act (AGRA) on oil-producing companies are relatively negligible. In addition to this, levies paid by the oil companies under the AGRA are tax-deductible. This means that oil-producing companies only need to deduct the levies for gas flaring from their taxable income.
Implementation of policies
In a bid to curb the menace of gas flaring in Nigeria, the Nigerian Gas Flare Commercialization Programme (NGFCP) was started. Under this program, the Minister of Petroleum is authorized to impose terms and conditions on any natural gas discovered in the public interest. The Federal government has the right to take any associated gas that would have been flared either free of charge or at an agreed cost.
Under the NGFCP, the Federal government can grant licenses to third parties so they can access and collect such gas from oil-producing companies on behalf of the Federal government. These third parties are the ones required to use the necessary technology to collect the gas at the flare points.
The Nigerian Gas Flare Commercialization Programme (NGFCP) has huge prospects if properly implemented. This includes the creation of opportunities for many other organizations in the oil sector.
With the program, opportunities will be created for investors to play an active role in Nigeria’s oil and gas market when gas that would have been flared is used for other commercial purposes. Investors will have some confidence in the system because the gas supply will be more assured.
Improve fuel supply
With NGFCP, there would be improved fuel supply to power generating companies in Nigeria that make use of gas. In Nigeria, power is generated primarily with the use of gas. Also, the sector has had poor output and delivery because of insufficient gas supplies. This negatively affects investments in the power sector because gas and power projects are not dependable in the country. The implementation of the programme would also enable the Federal government to achieve its goal of turning Nigeria into a gas-based industrial economy,
Implementation of Gas Flaring (Prohibition and Punishment) law
This law prohibits the flaring of gas on both onshore and offshore oil fields. Non-compliance with the provisions could lead to the forfeiture of a license or lease. When oil exploration and production companies are made to participate in the programme, it will ensure that the companies do not disobey the law.
The Nigerian Gas Flare Commercialization Programme would ensure that the federal government fulfills its responsibilities to inhabitants of the Niger Delta region, as it is only their rights. The cries of these ones who have been clamouring for government intervention for years will be heeded.
The Nigerian Gas Flare Commercialization Programme would also ensure the government attains its vision for zero gas flare by the year 2020. The Federal government would be able to live up to its environmental obligations under international agreements, for example, under the Paris agreement where the goal is to reduce carbon emissions by about 13 million tons of carbon dioxide.