Nigeria is a gas rich economy. Statistics show that Nigeria’s proven natural gas reserves are estimated at 174 trillion cubic feet (cf) and exist in higher quantities oil reserves and is expected to last for 110 years at least Despite this abundance, over 80% of these gases are flared while 12% is re-injected to enhance oil production. Consequently, Nigeria was ranked as having the 2nd highest level of gas flared in the world after Russia with about 23.0 billion m3 gas flared
Gas flaring is the burning of natural gas that is associated with crude oil when it is pumped up from the ground. Gas flaring occurs as a result of the inability of oil companies to harness this associated gas because of lack of infrastructure to transport this gas. The gas flared can serve other purposes, key among which is to generate power that can be used to supplement demand for electricity from Nigeria’s fast growing economy. It can also serve as cooking gas which would be a cleaner alternative for kerosene. Asides this, gas flaring contributes significantly to harmful environmental outcomes for the communities and above all contributes to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
A new gas flare tracker launched in 2014 shows that Nigeria loses gas to the value of $795,475,160 annually, fines worth $1,113,665,005 and gas that could have generated power to the capacity of 27,491,6171 giga watts per hour (GWh) The government had declared gas flaring to be illegal since 1984. However, the government is yet to implement the deadline imposed for stopping gas flaring, severally moved deadlines forward and sometimes even grants exemptions to oil companies Also, the fines imposed for flaring have been criticized as being too minute to sufficiently act as a deterrent The argument for the governments reluctance to impose greater deterrence for gas flaring is the fact that government (NNPC) owns over 55 per cent in the joint venture agreements for the major fields where the flaring occurs. Hence it will result in the government fining itself.
Nevertheless, it is imperative that government should as a matter of urgency address this issue so as to harness efficiently the natural resource in its disposal.