Gas flare conundrum

Perhaps nothing illustrates the utter levity with which successive Nigerian governments approach the urgent issue of attaining rapid economic development than the fact that large quantities of her gas resources continue to be inexplicably flared by oil producing companies.

Latest reports indicate that in 2019, over 425.9 standard cubic feet (SCF) of gas was flared by the oil companies, resulting in a loss of no less than $1.5 billion to the economy.

In Naira terms, this translates to about N460.5 billion going down the drain in a country that needs every penny she can muster to meet the challenges of protracted underdevelopment.

It is unfortunate that successive governments have allowed the oil producing companies to get away with the harmful practice of gas flaring decades after the country had set several failed targets for the enforcement of her zero tolerance for gas flaring policy.

Driven by their quest for profit, it is not difficult to decipher why the oil companies are reluctant to put a stop to the recklessness. Experts point out that the oil and gas companies find it cheaper and thus more profitable to flare the gas, since it is far more expensive to transport gas in comparison with crude oil.

But the best interest of the country cannot be mortgaged on the altar of the private companies’ quest for profit. It is up to the government to determine what is in the country’s best interest and ensure that private entities function within such contexts.

Industry analysts draw attention to the serious negative implications of gas flaring for national economic development. For instance, the amount lost to gas flaring in 2019 has been calculated to exceed the capital expenditure allocated to the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing in the 2020 budget.

Even more seriously, the total capital expenditure of the federal ministries of education, health, and power combined in the budget is less than the value of gas wastefully flared in 2019.

Furthermore, it is estimated that the volume of gas flared is capable of generating 42,600 megawatts of electricity. And this is a country that is currently struggling to meet a generation capacity of 5,000 megawatts for a population of 200 million people.

Matters are compounded by the Director-General of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Mr. Idris Musa, who is quoted by the media as stating that Nigeria is unaware of the actual volume of gas flared in the country.This position is corroborated by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, which reportedly stated, last year, that hundreds of gas flare sites are yet to be discovered and that work is still ongoing to identify these sites in pursuit of Nigeria Gas Flare Commercialisation Programme (NGFCP).

Given this kind of unserious attitude on the part of government, the oil companies will always be emboldened to continue with their lackadaisical disposition to the issue of acting decisively to end the destructive practice.

We doubt if there is anywhere else in the world where oil and gas multinationals will subjugate the national interest of their host countries to their quest for profitability.

If they sense the necessary seriousness on the part of government, these companies surely have the technological knowhow to capture the natural gas produced with oil and deploying the former productively.

Apart from the fiscal issues, however, gas flaring also comes with serious health hazards for inhabitants of neighborhoods in oil producing areas.

As the Non-Governmental Organisation, BudgIT, has been quoted as putting it, “Studies showed that gas flaring causes deformities in children, lung damage, pneumonia, bronchitis, blood disorders and a host of other fatal health conditions”. Government must act now to enforce its zero tolerance for gas flaring.

Culled from: The Nation



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