Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Ending Natural Gas Flaring in Nigeria's Oil Fields

Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Ending Natural Gas Flaring in Nigeria's Oil Fields

Article excerpt


Nigeria has one of the largest ten natural gas reserves in the world and roughly 50% of the deposits are discovered in association with oil. Over the years most of the associated gas is flared, with the attendant damage to the environment and a huge economic loss. Several efforts have recently been made to curtail gas flaring, including the establishment of a liquefied natural gas plant, a pipeline to transport gas to some neighbouring countries, and legislative measures to regulate the oil and gas industry. Additional projects are being planned and some of these are at various stages of completion. This work presents a three-scenario analysis of current and planned projects aimed at ending gas flaring activities over a study period 30 years (2010 - 2040). The first scenario is a business-as-usual case based on existing infrastructures. The second scenario assumes all firm projects are implemented as planned, while the third scenario assumes that, in addition to the firm projects, further projects are implemented. Results of the analysis indicate that existing infrastructure will not be sufficient to end gas flaring in the country. The implementation of firm planned projects in the second scenario will only reduce gas flaring to about 10% in 2040. The third scenario of additional projects ensures total elimination of gas flaring. The last two scenarios indicate that 2018 is the year when significant reduction in gas flaring can be achieved in Nigeria. Results also indicate that beyond the firm planned projects in the second scenario, proper timing and sizing of additional projects will be very critical in order to minimise stress on non-associated gas reserves.

Keywords: gas flaring, associated gas, non-associated gas, gas flare reduction, petroleum industry bill

1. Introduction

Nigeria has one of the ten largest natural gas reserves in the world, with an estimated 5.2 trillion cubic meters (OPEC, 2013), or 2.8% of total world reserves as at end of 2012. Natural gas supply in Nigeria comes in two streams - gas in isolated wells (or non-associated gas), and gas discovered together with oil, the associated gas. These two sources exist in roughly equal proportions. While non-associated gas can be left underground until needed, associated gas is unavoidably lifted together with crude oil, and must either be harvested or disposed of on site as an unwanted by-product of oil. The usual on-site disposal methods are by venting, if the volume is small enough, or flaring for larger volumes.

Until recently, most of the associated gas produced during oil mining activities was flared because of three main reasons - firstly, domestic demand for natural gas was not large enough to utilise all the associated gas, if recovered; secondly, there was the price tag on recovery of associated gas, which happened to be much higher than that of non-associated gas (ESMAP, 1983) and thirdly, inadequate domestic gas infrastructure to distribute gas to potential consumers. The higher cost of associated gas gathering stems from the fact that the oil fields are generally scattered, and gas collected at one single field may not be large enough for economic purposes. Hence the associated gas collected from these scattered oil fields must first be piped to a common collection point, compressed and transported to a processing unit. Non-associated gas in wells, on the other hand, is mostly found with sufficient pressure, enough to lift the gas a collection point without the need for compression. As it happened then, the reserves of non-associated gas could meet the domestic demand for gas for a long time to come, and there was no real urge to recover the associated gas that was being flared.

Gas flaring has several implications for the environment. Flaring is known to cause heat radiation and thermal conduction into the immediate environment, lead to the production of toxic gases during combustion, produce high noise levels, generate and disperse particulate and other gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxides (NOx) into the atmosphere. …

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