27 March 2009

End Gas Flaring

The Nigerian Civil Society Platform Against Gas Flaring, a group comprised of grassroots and community groups based in the Niger Delta, recently sent a memorandum to the Nigerian House of Representatives to urge the body to end gas flaring.

Here is some of what their report and a subsequent interview with one of the campaign’s coordinators revealed:

In Nigeria, 2.5 billion cubic feet of gas are flared per day. This is more than any other country in Africa and equals the greenhouse gas output of all of the rest of sub-Saharan Africa combined. As of 2007, 70% of Nigeria’s oil fields still flare gas.

Gas flaring affects around 20 communities in the Niger Delta, half of which are in Rivers state. The others are in Akwa Ibom, Delta and Bayelsa States. Some of the main problems caused by gas flaring in the host communities are:

  • Skin and respiratory complications (although the full impact has not been measured yet)
  • Low birth weight and deformed babies
  • Death of plants and disturbing of wildlife creating hunger and malnourishment
  • Lowered fertility rates

Furthermore, gas flaring contributes heavily to global warming and rising sea levels as well as being a waste of resources for the Nigerian people.

If the Government were to invest in a way to capture, use and sell this natural gas, it would be a huge boon to the economy and also a way to provide cheap power to the people of the Nation. However, since the government thinks they will lose the revenue from the flaring fines they charge, they are not willing to make the long-term investment. But where has this fine money gone?

The Department of Petroleum Resources has been collecting around 16 or 17 million dollars a year from the oil companies, according to some calculation, for the past 40 years as compensation for flaring. This money has never been accounted for and certainly has not been reinvested back into the communities affected. The rate of compensation has actually been raised as of 2008, but the Government has not actually enforced the change.

The oil companies say flares are down. This is true but only because oil production is down as a result of the militancy. Although the oil and gas companies are reluctant to provide any information, there are many good estimates. Here is a crude breakdown by well known companies in order of amount of flaring done and where:

  • Shell (SPDC and SNEPCO) flared 584 million cubic feet per day in Rivers state.
  • Chevron (CNL) flared 486 million cubic feet per day in Bayelsa and Delta states.
  • Agip flares around 375 million cubic feet per day in Rivers state.
  • Total (Elf/EPNL) flared 240 million cubic feet per day in Rivers state.

The Nigerian Civil Society Platform Against Gas Flaring is calling on the Nigerian government to:

  • Enact and enforce legislation to end gas flaring immediately. Previous flare-out dates have been passed in clear violation of the Federal High Court’s ruling that gas flaring is illegal
  • Enact legislation to compel companies to harness the flared gas for power generation nad energy in the Niger Delta
  • There should be a participatory audit of flaring to ascertain damage and give grounds to compensation to community victims of the practice.
  • Force oil and gas companies to cease operations in any field that is still flaring gas.
  • Fines should be imposed on gas flarers should go directly into a Special Community Health Fund to help deal with the direct and indirect impacts of the problem.

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