By Haruna Muhd Inuwa, Petroleum Engineering, NIGERIA.
The discovery of the modern oil well was drilled in 1859. Since then, oil and gas wells have been drilled both onshore and offshore. While minding the economic benefits of oil and gas which contributed immensely towards building a prosperous world we live in, there are some huge damages to our environment with which oil and gas discovery comes. One of which is the dangers of flaring gas and this accommodates unwanted gases into our atmosphere.
Oil has been a vital spark to industrial development in developed and developing countries. In the halfway 1950s, oil became a significant birthplace of energy. The products drive from it serves as a source of energy to industry, homes, and supply fuel for conveyances and airplanes.
Let the reader not forget, the title of this essay is “The Unspoken Dangers of GAS FLARING in Nigeria”. The giant of Africa, Nigeria discovered her black gold (Oil) in the year 1956 at Oloibiri, Bayelsa state by Shell-BP. The oil discovery changed the entire position of the economic profile of the country. Life was one long Christmas then, jingle bells all the way. Fatefully, Nigeria joined the oil-producing countries with oil production of 5,100 BPD in 1958.
Gas flaring refers to a device meant to emit associated and surplus gasses into the atmosphere during oil and gas exploration and production, crude oil refining process, coal industry, depots, etc. Normally, two ways involved in the making of flaring gas. One, in the absence of gas infrastructure to process the associated gas for subsequent usage, the associated will be flared. This is referred to as “routine flaring” during oil extraction. Secondly, “non-routine flaring” which is ordinarily infrequent and ephemeral. Here, the associated gas is being flared as a means of safety to reduce gas pressure build-up during variation of operational setting.
Nigeria is heavily blessed with one of the hefty natural gas in the world and about 50% of the gas is associated with gas (gas discovered with oil) and geographically these reserves are located in the Niger/Delta region of the country. More devastatingly, the problem of gas flaring has been a trending issue for quite a long time. From Abia to Bayelsa, Cross River to Edo, Imo to Ondo, Rivers to Delta people lost their precious lives. No thanks to gas flaring. The environment is badly hurt. Our atmosphere is helpless and ruthlessly polluted. Is there any legal backup to put a stop to this rude practice and abuse of the environment? Certainly yes! How effective is the legal framework to stop gas flaring in Nigeria? The laws are as rare as chicken’s teeth and as ineffective as nothing. Any hope? Yes, only if the stakeholders do the needful. Otherwise, people in the affected communities will continuously be living at mercy of these unspoken dangers of gas flaring like some kind of victims plucked from Hitler’s gas chamber.
It is been estimated that gas flaring in Nigeria is as antique as the oil discovery in the country. More precisely, since the discovery of oil in Nigeria, gas flaring became unavoidable due to the absence of gas infrastructure to further process the associated and excess gasses. The flaring of gas happens during oil production both from rigs and oil-wells and this bequeaths immensely to GHGs into our air – the atmosphere. Moreover, the flaring of gas pollutes our environment and establishes the main cause of industrial air pollution in the oil and gas exploration and production regions. According to data obtained by Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the oil companies wasted 19.95 billion SCF of gas in January 2020; 18.27 billion SCF in February; 19.71 billion SCF in March; 17.90 billion SCF in April, and 15.07 billion SCF in May, and a total of 14.19 billion SCF was flared in June; 14.15 billion SCF in July; 13.62 billion SCF in August; 14.79 billion SCF in September; 13.98 billion SCF in October, 17.32 billion SCF in November, and 14.17 billion SCF in December.
Categorically, the problems of gas flaring can be under environment, human health, and some other connotation. For over five decades now, gas flaring has subjected the Niger/Delta region to unending repercussions of bad practice and set a heightened barrier to socio-economic transformation, natural environment, and causes overwhelming instability and peaceful coexistence of humans in the region. Without mincing words, the good people including plants and animals of the Niger/Delta region have suffered more than enough through the unspoken dangers of gas flaring. Pretty pitiful!
To the policymakers, the prohibition of gas flaring in Nigeria is like a pie in the sky which they keep on building with their mouths. It appears simple but on a larger picture, it is as complex as Chinese Algebra. Moreover, gas flaring influences climate change which causes nocuous consequences like acid rain. The discharge of CO2 and the combustion of fossil fuels have driven our mother earth into climate injustice and global warming for both developed and developing nations. Agriculturally, the Niger/Delta region is bankrupt. The atmospheric impurities caused by gas flaring squander the natural rich in the soil and frustrate the natural prosperity of crops. The wildlife becomes difficult due to destroying problems of gas flaring. The spontaneous temperature increase in these communities is yet another devastating effect of gas flaring. Most of these communities experience harsh and unfriendly weather throughout the year.
While our environment and human health are severely threatened by unbearable hardship caused by gas flaring, economically the country loses a huge amount of dollars as well. Gas is being burnt off every day and if this very gas which is worth more than billions of dollars is perfectly utilized the country would generate great revenue on top of that and reduce the effects of gas flaring and save our environment. Africa’s largest oil producer is known for stubborn gas glaring in the oil-producing region. Based on the figures released by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation in 2019 depicted those 218.9 billion standard cubic feet of gas was flared in 2018. This gas flaring cost the country close to N243.23 billion loss in revenue in the year 2018. This money could have been appropriately utilized on poor health infrastructure, education, agriculture, basic amenities, etc. While the Nigerian government wants to end gas flaring, the challenges faced are: Delay in passing the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), absence of infrastructural support, below optimal punitive measures as reported by PwC.
Until the issue of gas flaring is taking more seriously, the oil-producing regions will remain prisoners to the unspoken dangers’ gas flaring.
- Human Rights Watch homepage available at https://www.hrw.org/reports/1999/nigeria/Nigew991-05.htm, accessed 22 June 2016.