Herdadi, Others Seek Commitment To End Gas Flaring

Gas flaring is the burning of natural gas that is associated with crude oil when it is pumped up from the ground. It is an up-stream activity in the Petroleum Industry. Gas flaring is a crude way of disposing of the associated gas with with crude oil.

Waste gases are subjected to such a process either because the gases are waste or it is difficult to store and transport them. Non-waste gases are burnt off to protect the processing equipment when unexpected high pressure develops within them. Gas flaring in oil rigs and wells contribute significantly to greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.

Nigeria is the highest gas flaring country in the world, with an average of Nigeria of 17.2 billion m3 of natural gas flares annually. This high level of gas flaring is approximately one quarter of the current power consumption of the African continent. The economic waste and health hazards posed by gas flaring is enormous. Worse still oil exploration companies have been professing zero gas flaring but they have capitalized on the weak institutions and shifted the goal post for over four decades.

The Human and Environmental Rights Dynamic Advocacy Development Initiative, HERDADI has proposed a meeting with stakeholders early February 2018 to seek a solid commitment on a date to end gas flaring in the oil-rich Niger Delta. HERDADI hopes the regulatory agencies will take a proactive stance on gas flaring. The oil Multinationals should also make firm commitments to gradually reduce and end the scourge of gas flaring in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria.

The Nigerian government has not enforced environmental regulations effectively because of the overlapping and conflicting jurisdiction of separate governmental agencies governing petroleum and the environment as well as because of non-transparent governance mechanisms. Neither the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) nor the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) has implemented anti-flaring policies for natural gas waste from oil production, nor have they monitored the emissions to ensure compliance. The Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) has had the authority to issue standards for water, air and land pollution and has had the authority to make regulations for oil industry.

There is no gainsaying the fact that the Nigerian government’s main interest in the oil industry is to maximize its monetary profits from oil production. Oil companies find it more economically expedient to flare the natural gas and pay the insignificant fine than to re-inject the gas back into the oil wells.

Additionally, because there is an insufficient energy market especially in rural areas, oil companies do not see an economic incentive to collect the gas. Besides, there is indigenous technology deficit to embark on gas conversion.

The oil-producing communities have experienced severe marginalization and neglect. The environment and human health have frequently been a secondary consideration for oil companies and the Nigerian government. Although there may be reasons for the continuous gas flaring, there are many strong arguments suggesting that it should be stopped because of the numerous health challenges facing host communities.

Sadly, the supposed benefits are given significantly more weight by the government than the resulting damage to the environment and human health.

Environmental Implications

i Climate Change

Gas flaring contributes to climate change, which has serious implications for both Nigeria and the rest of the world. The burning of fossil fuel, mainly coal, oil and gas-greenhouse gases-has led to warming up the world and is projected to get much, much worse during the course of the 21 st century according to the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC). This scientific body was set up in 1988 by the UN and the World Meteorological Organization to consider climate change.

Gas flaring contributes to climate change by emission of carbon dioxide, the main

greenhouse gas. Venting of the gas without burning, a practice for which flaring seems often to be treated as a synononym, releases methane, the second main greenhouse gas. Together and crudely, these gases make up about 80% of global warming to date.

ii Acid Rain

Acid rains have been linked to the activities of gas flaring. Corrugated roofs in the Delta region

have been corroded by the composition of the rain that falls as a result of flaring. The primary causes of acid rain are emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO 2) and nitrogen oxides (NO) which combine with atmospheric moisture to form sulfuric acid and nitric acid respectively. Size and environmental philosophy in the industry have very strong positive impact on the gas-flaring-related CO 2 emission.

Acid rain acidifies lakes and streams and damages vegetation. In addition, acid rain accelerates the decay of building materials and paints. Prior to falling to the earth, SO 2 and NO 2 gases and their particulate matter derivatives, sulfates and nitrates, contribute to visibility degradation and harm public health.

iii Impact on Agriculture

The flares associated with gas flaring give rise to atmospheric contaminants. These include oxides of Nitrogen, Carbon and Sulphur (NO 2, CO 2, CO, SO 2), particulate matter, hydrocarbons and ash, photochemical oxidants, and hydrogen sulphide . These contaminants acidify the soil, hence depleting soil nutrient. More often, there is no vegetation in the areas surrounding the flare due partly to the tremendous heat that is produced and acid nature of soil pH.

The effects of the changes in temperature on crops included stunted growth, scotched plants and such other effects as withered young crops. Fertility deficiency reduces the capacity for sustainable agriculture due to the acidification of the soils by the various pollutants associated with gas flaring in the area.

The health implications can better be imagined. People in and around impacted sites are exposed to hazardous air pollutants emitted during incomplete combustion of gas flare. These pollutants are associated with a variety of adverse health impacts, including cancer, neurological, reproductive and developmental effects.

They could result in deformities in children, lung damage and skin problems have also been common. Hydrocarbon compounds are known to affect blood and blood-forming cells negatively. And could give rise to anemia pancytopenia and leukemia.

Much of the flared gas can be converted for domestic use and it is estimated

that about $2.5 billion is lost annually through gas flaring in government revenues. Gas conversation projects is capable of contributing to the foreign exchange of the country.


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