Chuks Isiwu 20 July 2017, Sweetcrude, Lagos – Nigeria is losing $25 billion annually due to gas flaring. This should be a cause for concern in a country currently in economic recession. The amount involved is significant enough to help the country out of its economic predicament.
But of more concern is the effect of gas flaring on the environment where the oil is produced and its wider implication for global warming.
Nigeria is endowed with over 190 trillion standard cubic feet of natural gas reserves, putting it in the top 10 of the world’s most endowed countries when it comes to gas. Unfortunately, a huge volume of the gas produced in Nigeria is flared.
Last year (2016), for instance, oil and gas companies operating in the country flared a total of 244.84 billion standard cubic feet of natural gas, according to data from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). The corporation said this volume represented a drop in the level of gas flaring in the previous years, but the country remains a major gas flaring nation, occupying currently the seventh position on the global gas flaring chart.
The effect of gas flaring is the spoliation of the environment, destruction of farm land and farming activities, acid rain and the several heath hazards it has forced on people in the oil producing communities in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta.
At a recent one-day public hearing on the Gas Flaring Prohibition Bill 2017, the Nigeria Senate held that the country was losing a lot to gas flaring in terms of cash, its impact on humans and the environment.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Gas, Senator Bassey Akpan, disclosed at the public hearing in Abuja organised by the committee that as a result of unsustainable exploration and production practices as well as lack of gas utilisation infrastructure, a considerable volume of the gas produced in association with oil is flared.
He said: “This has reportedly costs Nigeria over $25 billion annually as well as contributing to air pollution, heat, rainforest damage and climate change.
“In the more than 1,000 oil fields located across the country, the towering flames resulting from gas burning now seem to the local villagers as an inevitable consequence of oil production.”
Nigeria has made progress, from its previous position as second most gas flaring nation in the world after Russia, to its current seventh position, but experts say it still flares 9 cubic metres of gas per barrel of crude oil produced, a figure that is double the globally accepted standard of 4.5 cubic metres per barrel of oil produced.
From environmental point of view, Nigeria’s gas flaring is worrying because, according to the Post Carbon Institute, 140 to 150 billion cubic metres of flared natural gas translates to 270 to 290 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per year.
This, indeed, goes to show the level of Nigeria’s culpability in global warming.