By Jesse-Martin Manufor, MSc Cranfield
Nigeria has a huge natural gas reserve. In terms of proven reserves she is ranked 7th in the world with associated and non-associated gas reserves of 187 trillion standard cubic feet (tscf). Although geologists are of the view that the reserves can reach 600 tscf (Ige, 2008), this quantity can be feasible if companies make a conscious effort to explore for gas rather than finding gas in their search for oil as both are found in the same rock strata. As a result of this, most of the gas which could have been utilized for power, cooking fuel and industrial processes is flared. This makes gas flaring synonymous with the Nigerian oil and gas sector.
According to a publication by Oil Producing and Exporting Countries (OPEC), Nigeria is placed as the second highest gas flaring nation in the world behind Russia. The country has failed at several attempts to end gas flaring with the earliest being in 1969 when the then Head of State Gen. Yakubu Gowon ordered oil companies to end flaring in 1974. Till date, this hasn’t been possible. Although flare volumes has continued to decrease, dropping by over one-third between 2004 and 2010, the volume flared in 2010 stood at 15.2 billion cubic metres (bcm) which is 11 per cent of the world total with resultant huge economic losses. Recently, International Oil Companies (IOCs) stated that 2020 is the feasible date for gas flare out, is this attainable?
Oil companies justify continued flaring of gas on the grounds of limited number of appropriate reservoirs conducive for the re-injection/storage and economics; huge cost of developing major and inter-connecting network of gas pipelines; low technological and industrial base for energy consumption in the country; limited regional and international market; inadequate fiscal and gas pricing policies to encourage investment; and the difficult terrain of the Niger Delta which has hampered the gas recovery process (Omiyi, 2001).
Government have made effort to meet these challenges as highlighted by the IOCs. For instance, gas price has been increased significantly from $1 per mcf in 2010 to $3.30 per mcf (Onyekpere E. and Ofoegbu, I. D, 2015). Also there is extensive 5,000km gas pipeline system in southern Nigeria and planned new gas pipelines like the Trans-Nigeria Pipeline and Trans-Saharan pipeline, these new pipelines especially the Trans-Nigerian pipeline will supply gas to the commercial cities of Kano and Kaduna, in addition to the existing Escravos-Lagos pipelines which supplies gas to industrial complexes in Lagos and Ogun states thereby providing an industrial base that will utilise the gas as feedstock in an industrial process. The planned Trans-Saharan pipeline although still on the drawing board will bring our gas to new markets in Europe. Despite these efforts by government to provide the enabling environment for the utilisation of gas in our country, there is still gas flaring in the oil and gas fields of the Niger-Delta.
Coming on the heels of the COP21 climate conference in Paris, the onus lies on the Nigeria government to stop gas flaring because that is the country’s greatest contribution to greenhouse gases (GHGs) and subsequently climate change. This paper proposes some daring policy and technological initiatives that can be applied to curb gas flaring in Nigeria. The technological initiatives proposed are proven in other energy sectors and the author believes these technologies can be applied to oil and gas sector in a bid to stop gas flaring.
GAS FLARE OUT INITIATIVES
Enforcement of stringent penalties/fines at the cost of current gas price: Fines should be increased to the current international gas price to discourage companies from flaring. An attempt to increase fines was done on August 2011. The petroleum revenue special task force increased gas penalty fee from N10 to $3.50 per scf of gas flared, but oil companies have deliberately failed to pay these fines. Hence the payment of these fines has to be enforced to generate revenue for government. And as well as to deter oil and gas companies from flaring indiscriminately.
Non-issuance of new oil licenses or renewal of licenses; if the IOCs do not utilise/harness gas from their current oil block/fields
A review of the performance of oil and gas companies and how well they implemented their associated gas reinjection plans should be a major parameter for the renewal of oil licences and issuance of new ones.
Government incentives to IOCs to encourage the use of Best Available Technology (BAT) that will harness associated gas
The oil and gas industry like most high tech industries pose a lot of risk to the environment in their operations, therefore the industry uses cutting edge technology to reduce their environmental impact. However these industries fail to use these technologies when they operate in the developing countries. The Federal government of Nigeria must insist on the highest standards by providing some kind of incentive to encourage the use of BAT in oil and gas operations in Nigeria.
In exceptional circumstances where gas utilisation is not possible, the installation of gas cleaning systems that will clean the emission before release to the atmosphere: when associated gas (AG) is flared, gaseous emissions such as sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide, total organic carbon (TOC) etc. are released into the atmosphere. Proven flue gas cleaning systems such as selective non-catalytic reaction (SNCR), selective catalytic reaction (SCR) and wet and dry scrubbers should be integrated into the design of gas flare stacks to reduce the emission of these environmentally harmful gases.
Use of mobile gas turbine which can tolerate associated gas for onsite off grid power provision
Mobile gas turbines/generators have been used to generate electricity from landfill sites. These gas turbines tolerate various gas qualities. Its use in landfill gas mining is because it can tolerate the high moisture and CO2 content of this gas. As a result of the varied nature of the expected feedstock for these turbines, associated gas which is made up of various gases can be combusted and the energy is converted to power (megawatts). The drawback with this is the power grid where this power will be connected to as a result of the remoteness of some of these oil and gas fields. However a good off grid system can be designed to power host communities nearest the field as part of corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Installation of small power plants on-site
Small power plants are similar to mobile gas turbines/generators. The difference lies in the sophistication of the systems and it differs from regular power plants due to scale. In this system, gas from various fields in close proximity to each other are collected and processed at a centrally located gas field where the small power plant will be sited. This scenario needs government action and involvement in terms of policy and grid infrastructure.
These initiatives involve radical policy and technological changes on the part of government and the oil and gas companies. The ideas proposed in this article however good or impractical they may sound are not an end or solution to gas flaring in Nigeria nor should the ideas be thrown away; rather they are meant to open up discussion on the practicability of implementing these initiatives in Nigeria and possible technological issues that may arise while its being implemented.
Ige David, “Nigerian Gas Master Plan Investors Road Show 2008”
Omiyi Basil, (2001) “Shell Nigeria Corporate Strategy for Ending Gas Flaring,” Seminar on Gas Flaring and Poverty Alleviation, Oslo, 18-19 June, pp. 1-13.
Onyekpere, E. and Ofoegbu, I. D, (2015) Issues in Implementing the Nigerian Gas Master Plan. Centre for Social Justice, Abuja.