Zero Routine Gas Flares and Delta Communities

February 28, 2024
Gas Flare Commercialization

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

It is common knowledge that in pursuit of meeting the targets of 20 per cent (unconditional) and 47 per cent (conditional) greenhouse gas emission reduction as contained in the Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Accord reportedly signed by the President Bola Tinubu administration, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited/TotalEnergies joint venture recently achieved zero routine gas flare in all its assets.

While it is obvious that “the significance of this achievement is that the last routine flare volume of about 12MMscf/d (12 million standard cubic feet per day) of gas has now been eliminated giving rise to a greenhouse gas emissions reduction of about 341KtCO2e/yr, also newsy is the awareness that the NNPC Ltd/TotalEnergies joint venture, which is the concession holder of four leases, had hitherto achieved zero routines flaring across OML 99 (2006), OML 102 (2014), and OML 58 (2016).

Indeed, this pattern of achievement has in the opinion of this piece characterized the above result as a testament to NNPC Ltd’s prioritization of sustainability anchored on the ‘first R’ of its 5R strategy (Reduce, Replace, Renew, Re-plant, Repurpose).

However, even as the nation celebrates this seemingly breakthrough, it on the other hand elicits an explanation as to why no operator in the nation’s oil and gas sector, particularly under NNPCL watch should continue on the evil path of gas flaring as presently suffered in Delta communities such as Ubeji, a sleepy Satellite community located around the Warri petrochemical company in Warri South local government area of delta State.

Ubeji is an emblem of degradation and represents communities that have continually suffered from the choking soot that daily emanates from the towering chimney which pierces the skyline of their environments.

As noted in a recent but similar intervention, a visit to the community reveals a people faced increased socio-economic difficulties with no record of survival. Though the community has not vanished physically, many of its residents have been sacked by the pollution and businesses within the space destroyed. Some families were decimated and dispersed. Those who choose to stay back in the community have been ‘absorbed’ by the pollution. They no longer enjoy economic, social and healthy progress that flows from good governance and social cohesion. Their lives are now fraught with uncertainty!

Regardless of what others may say, the truth is that if TotalEnergies can achieve zero routine gas flare in all its assets, nothing should stop other operators from achieving a similar feat.

The facts are there and speak for it.

First, separate from the painful recognition that Ubeji is, but just one out of hundreds of communities in the region suffering a similar fate, a reality to worry about, and a point why urgent action should be taken to end the evil of gas flaring-induced pollution, is that gas flaring is in gross contravention, and stands as direct opposite of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s declaration at the recently held COP 28,  in the United Arab Emirate (UAE), where he among other remarks told the world that Nigeria is committed to ending gas flaring to cut Methane Emissions.

The President, who shared the platform with the President of COP28, Dr Sultan Ahmed al-Jabar; the United States Special Envoy on Climate, John Kerry, and the Chinese Envoy on Climate, Xie Zhenhue, told the world that Nigeria has already imposed heavy penalties for defaulters.

Praising the leadership of the host country in the drive to reduce greenhouse gases, the President said he was aware of the need for participants to make commitments to the goal of limiting the earth’s temperature increase to 1.5C by the end of the century.

Tinubu reportedly said: “Sitting here in this room, I know that we have to commit ourselves. We have been doing so before today. We are committed to critical steps to reduce methane emissions by ensuring gas flaring is eliminated. There is a huge penalty for that. There is equally a huge incentive to do so. The measures that are taken here are a welcome development, no doubt about that. I am with the leadership of the UAE for the commitment shown so far.

“We are consolidating on gas export, usage domestically and export to other countries. I can assure you that we will be partners in progress to achieve renewable energy. We are committed to energy mix; we are providing cooking gas for our large population. We will continue to do that. We have signed off on the reduction of methane. We will leverage new technology and we hope that the two giant nations and the Emirates will be able to help us.”

Away from  President Tinubu’s comment at COP28, another reason for the nation to urgently achieve Zero Routine Gas flares in Ubeji and other Delta Communities is that going by what experts are saying, the major reason for flaring of gases is that when crude oil is extracted from onshore and offshore oil wells, it brings with it raw natural gas to the surface and where natural gas transportation, pipelines, and infrastructure are lacking, like in the case of Nigeria, this gas is instead burned off or flared as a waste product as this is the cheapest option. This has been going on since the 1950s when crude oil was first discovered in commercial quantities in Nigeria.

Most importantly, for a very long time, the nation of Nigeria has been on this particular case without tangible results.

Successive Federal Governments made what could be best described as a mere declaration of intent without the political will to enforce such laws.

Even at the risk of repetition, Nigerians are aware that in 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari led administration enacted Gas Flare prohibition and punishment), an act that among other things made provisions to prohibit gas flaring in any oil and gas production operation, blocks, fields, onshore or offshore, and gas facility treatment plants in Nigeria.

On Monday 2nd.September 2018 Dr Ibe Kachikwu, Minister of State for Petroleum (as he then was) while speaking at the Buyers’ Forum/stakeholders’ Engagement organized by the Gas Aggregation Company of Nigeria in Abuja among other things remarked thus; ‘I have said to the Department of Petroleum Resources, beginning from next year (2019 emphasis added), we are going to get quite frantic about this (ending gas flaring in Nigeria) and companies that cannot meet with extended periods –the issue is not how much you can pay in terms of fines for gas flaring, the issue is that you would not produce. We need to begin to look at the foreclosing of licenses’.

That threat has since ended in the frames as the Minister did little or nothing to get the threat actualized.

The administration also launched the now abandoned National Gas Flare Commercialization Programme (NGFCP, a programme, according to the Federal Government aimed at achieving the flares-out agenda/zero routine gas flaring in Nigeria by 2020.

Again, like a regular trademark, it failed.

Away from Buhari’s administration, in 1979, the then Federal Government in a similar style came up with the Associated Gas Re-injection Act which summarily prohibited gas flaring and also fixed the flare-out deadline for January 1, 1984. It failed in line with the leadership philosophy in the country.

Similar feeble and deformed attempts were made in 2003, 2006, and 2008.

In the same style and span, precisely on July 2, 2009, the Nigerian Senate passed a Gas Flaring (Prohibition and Punishment) Bill 2009 (SB 126) into Law fixing the flare-out deadline for December 31, 2010- a date that slowly but inevitably failed. Not stopping at this point, the FG made another attempt in this direction by coming up with the Petroleum Industry Bill which fixed the flare-out deadline for 2012. The same Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) was protracted till 2021 when it was subsequently signed into law by President Buhari, as the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA).

These legions of laws notwithstanding, delta communities are daily suffocated by pollution arising from Gas flaring.

This is unacceptable!

Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator for Media and Policy at the Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He can be reached via [email protected]/08032725374

Leave a Reply

Stanbic IBTC Bank Logo
Previous Story

70 Active Stanbic IBTC Bank Customers Grab N7m in January Draws

Marta Jansa Perez Visits Bridge Clinic Nigeria
Next Story

Renowned Embryologist Dr Marta Jansa Perez Visits Bridge Clinic Nigeria

Latest from Feature/OPED

Don't Miss