Air and environmental pollution continued unabated on New Year’s day by International Oil Companies (IOCs), despite the expiration of the December 31, 2013 deadline given by the Federal Government to implement the 40 year-old legislation to end flaring.
Nigeria, Africa’s biggest crude exporter, has been making frantic efforts, setting and shifting deadlines to end the waste.
The country’s unsuccessful attempts to end the menace, despite numerous legislation and deadlines, dates back to 1969 when the military junta led by General Yakubu Gowon ordered oil companies operating in the oil rich Niger Delta to work towards ending gas flaring by 1974.
Investigation by **Daily Independent** showed that as at midnight of December 31, 2013, the latest date for gas flaring deadline, the oil majors, including their local counterparts, still flared about 85 per cent gas, even as the National Assembly has yet to announce a shift in the date, thereby creating a legal loophole for flaring.
A source at the Ministry of Petroleum Resources however told **Daily Independent** that intensive lobbying is on-going by the Presidency and the IOCs for the National Assembly to shift ground.
“Except an unexpected happens, the announcement of the shift in the gas flaring deadline may be made very soon at the resumption of legislative duties by the law makers,” the source told our correspondent.
The Federal Government, which owns over 55 per cent stake in all the major fields where the flaring occurs, through the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), has earlier admitted that flaring has dropped by only 15 per cent.
Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Andrew Yakubu, who, according to a statement, revealed this at the 42nd Annual General Meeting, Conference and Exhibition of the Nigerian Society of Chemical Engineers (NSChE), assured that a lot of investments have been put in place to end gas flaring.
The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) added that the country is still flaring about 24 per cent of its 7.8 billion cubic feet gas wells production per day, worth an estimated $2.5 billion annually, due to lack of infrastructure to harness the gas.
The oil industry Watchdog also claimed that no oil producing country is capable of achieving zero gas flare.
A research report published by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) ranked Nigeria as the second highest gas flaring nation in the world, raising fresh concerns over the commitment of the federal government to realise its ‘Zero Gas Flaring’ policy.
The report, which was contained in the OPEC bulletin of February, noted that although government has taken practical measures to drastically reduce the waste, through a range of projects that could enhance utilisation of its gas resources, its efforts have yielded minimal reduction.
The report read in parts: “Nigeria, a GGFR member from the start in 2002, has been attempting to set solid deadlines for the elimination of flaring for some time. Admittedly, domestic flaring volumes having fallen by one-third between 2004 and 2010, but the nation still remains the second largest gas flaring country, with volumes of 15.2 bcm in 2010, 11 per cent of the world total.
“Unfortunately, the large-scale projects that the government had hoped to implement to minimise flaring have proved to be more difficult to put into practice than was anticipated. They include the West Africa Gas Pipeline, which faced years of delay, a growing number of proposed LNG projects, most of which have yet to get off the drawing board, and the Escravos GTL plant, which has suffered long delays and massive cost overruns. However, looking ahead on a positive note, a key policy development is Nigeria’s ambitious gas master plan, which calls for the development of gas processing hubs to gather and process gas to provide fuel for power stations,” it stated.
Indications that the country’s dream of effective utilisation of its gas resources may ensure long gestation period emerged when the multinational oil firms also failed to meet the 1979 dateline, thus forcing the civilian administration led by Alhaji Shehu Shagari to defer the zero gas flaring deadline to 1984. To ensure the realisation of the target, an Associated Gas Re-Injection Act of 1979 No. 99 was introduced, demanding that oil corporations operating in Nigeria should produce detailed plans for gas utilisation as well as guarantee zero flares by January 1, 1984, unless they had a case-by-case exemption obtainable from the relevant Ministry.
Similar excuses were presented three years later by the oil multinational firms on the reasons the 1984 deadline for zero gas flaring would not be feasible, thus forcing the embattled Shagari government to shift the target date. Although, routine gas flaring was outlawed since 1984, according to Section 3 of Nigeria’s Associated Gas Reinjection Act, 1979, the practice continued unabated during the succeeding military regimes. Instead of the much anticipated reduction, statistics from the Department of the Petroleum Resources (DPR) show that rate of gas flaring grew leaps and bounds, owing to the failure of the government to enforce the gas flaring law.
[Adeola Yusuf, Daily Independent]