Nigeria wants to curb gas flaring by revoking licences of non-compliant oil companies

In a bid to cut down gas flaring and promote a healthier environment, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu said that the Federal Government will from next year start revoking the licences of oil companies that do not comply with the gas flaring regulations in the country.

The News Agency of Nigeria reported Kachikwu to have said this while speaking at the 2018 Buyers’ Forum/Stakeholders’ Engagement, Kachickwu stated that there has been an ongoing battle between the Federal Government and upstream oil companies on gas flaring, stressing that oil companies that cannot stop flaring gas ought not to be producing.

Since the inception of commercial oil production in Nigeria, the flaring of associated gas has become regular in Nigeria because most oil companies claim they do not derive sufficient economic benefits from the utilisation or production of associated gas. According to the World Bank’s Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership report, Nigeria is the seventh highest gas flaring country in the world. About 800 million standard cubic feet (Mmscf) of gas is flared daily from approximately 144 gas flare points in the country.

Confirming this, the country’s oil regulatory corporation, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) stated that oil companies operating in the country flared a total of 301.69 billion standard cubic feet of gas between November 2016 and November 2017.

Early this year, Nigeria attempted to convert flared gas to economic use with the launch of Nigerian Gas Flare Commercialization Programme (NGFCP). Its regulatory objectives were to reduce the environmental and social impact caused by flaring, prevent waste of natural resources and create a social and economic benefit from gas flare capture.

To achieve this, the government set different flaring fines per barrel of oil. However, this has not stopped gas flaring in the country. Since 2016, residents of Port Harcourt in Rivers State have battled black soot emanating from flares in the country. The state government shut down an asphalt processing plant operating in the area and sealed off a Chinese company in the city for aggravated air pollution and breach of environmental laws. This, however, did not stop the soot or other companies from flaring gas in the state.

Kachickwu hopes that revoking of licence would put an end to the flaring situation once and for all. According to Kachikwu, should the oil and gas companies need to renew their licences in the future, they would go through assessments which would involve gas components and gas flare rate.

Revoking licences 

Revoking licences and accessing gas flare rates might help in curbing gas flaring rates but would not totally eliminate flaring and the toxic components it emits in the environment.

Instead of flaring, gas can be re-injected to serve other purposes. Gas injection is when gas is introduced into a depleted oil reservoir in order to increase the pressure within the reservoir and thereby increase the production of crude oil from the reservoir.

Another alternative solution to gas flaring is to liquefy the gas and store it in vessels or bottles as liquid natural gas. When liquefied, impurities like water and acid gases produced with the gas are removed. The stored Liquefied gas can also be used domestically and in industries.

Majority of the oil and gas companies are structured such that flaring is the only option; the massive plants ready to expel the unwanted gas during production. Revoking their licence may serve as a serious warning, but how it helps in the long term remains to be seen.

Given that there are different ways gas can be produced and discarded other than flaring, Utilizing safer methods can solve the problems of energy generation, greenhouse effects and also create a safer environment.