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There is an increasing awareness worldwide on the need to live and act sustainably; this is being applied to virtually all spheres of human life and activities. Though natural gas is one of the conventional fossil fuels, it is actually less polluting compared to others and its availability in Nigeria is what makes it a viable candidate in this study which focuses on the nation.
Energy being an important need to carry out most daily activities comes into consideration. The current energy situation in Nigeria is that which calls for major concerns as there is little or close to nothing that is sustainable about it. Abundant natural gas resources is being wasted (flared) in the country and this is a rich source of energy which can be used to augment the gaps in the energy situation in the country as well as reduce the environmental impact of gas flaring. This report examines the ways and means by which the natural gas can be put to use to achieve ethical, energy and environmental sustainability to satisfy the future needs of energy of the nation.
Natural gas is one of the leading traditional energy sources for distributed generation. Because of the large proven reserves and the environmental benefits of using natural gas, it should be made one of the leading choices for power generation and a source of energy in Nigeria. Natural gas is a mixture of gases (The main ingredient in natural gas is methane) that formed from the fossil remains of ancient plants and animals buried deep in the earth. Methane is a molecule made up of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms. Its chemical formula is CH4 (API, 2009).
1.2 Natural gas reserves in Nigeria
Proven reserves statistics show Nigeria to be the largest in Africa as shown in Figure 1 and the 8th Largest in the world with 185.4 trillion cubic feet shown in Figure 2 (BP Statistical review of world energy 2010). Nigeria's proven reserves of Natural gas is more than one third of the whole reserves in Africa but unfortunately a sizable amount of it is flared due to the unavailability/inadequate infrastructure for its processing and utilization. The gas reserves are distributed 50-50% for both associated gas (AG) and non-associated gas (NAG) (Sonibare and Akeredolu, 2004).
Figure 1: World natural gas reserves by Geographic region, 2009 (Source: EIA International Energy Statistics).
Combustion of natural gas which is a relatively clean fuel and the lowest in carbon intensive fossil fuels (Lom and Williams, 1976) gives lesser pollution and thus in pollution potential is lower when compared with others, but this can be of environmental concern also if the practice were continuous and in huge proportions. This is the case in flaring activities in Nigerian upstream petroleum operations.
Figure 2: Top proven Natural Gas reserve holders, 2010 (Source: Oil and Gas Journal 2010)
The main products released when natural gas is burned are carbon dioxide, water vapour and few particulates. Coal and oil are more chemically complex than natural gas, so when burned they release a variety of potentially harmful chemicals such as sulphur oxides, partially oxidised hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, soot other solid compounds and inorganic fly ash into the air. Nigeria being a high ranking nation with proven reserves, there is not enough infrastructure for the utilization if Natural gas in Nigeria. The bulk of its energy consumption still come from individual generation and this can take many forms and most of this forms use fossil fuels which are a major source of pollution which in turn cause environmental climate change. Figure 3 shows how more often(local) the use combustibles which does not only give up greenhouse gases(methane and CO2 ), but also particulate which is one of the primary sources of respiratory health issues which is predominant in the rural parts of the country.
Figure 3: Total Energy Consumption in Nigeria by type 2007 (Source: International Energy Agency)
The call for a sustainable development has been of a great concern and with the current power situation in Nigeria, the situation in the country presently call for concern as majorly all of the forms of power generation are those which are of a great environmental degradation. Due to the current state of irregular electricity supply in the country, people always end up having to come up with their own kind of power and energy generation just to augment supply from the national grid which is usually erratic. The individual power generation types mainly used are outlined as follows:
Use of gasoline generators for electricity production(domestic and industrial)
Use of fossil fuels to run mechanical machines(industrial)
Burning of biomass, combustibles and wastes for cooking(mainly rural)
Kerosene stoves for cooking ( A very small fraction of the whole population use Gas cookers, use of electric cooker is not effective with the epileptic electricity supply)
1.3 Environmental concerns of Natural gas Flaring
It should be noted that all of these processes give out emissions and these processes could have been avoided if the natural gas reserves of the country are well utilized in the areas of power generation which can now be used as a source of energy for most of the other processes either domestic or industrial. Natural gas production in the country is currently standing at 3.5 billion cubic feet per day (37% being Non-associated gas and 63% Associated gas), a small fraction of this is used domestically with the available technology and infrastructure and the rest is exported. Of the total daily gas production, approximately 17% is re-injected, 33% used commercially and the remaining 50% is flared as presented in Table 1.
Table 1: Natural gas production and consumption in Nigeria
Quantity (million m3)
Net production (annual)
Source: NLNG (2003), OPEC (2002), and NEPA (2003)
Since the gas produced is of both associated and non-associated, the 50% flared translated to about 75% of total AG produced. At this rate operation in the gas commercialization and flaring the country is losing appreciable sums of money running into millions of dollars and also not forgetting the climate change risk being posed by the continuous gas flaring activities; this flaring activity has earned the nation a second position among nations with the highest volume of gas flared (Sonibare and Akeredolu, 2004).Currently standing at next to Russia as shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4: Gas Flaring 2008 (Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
Gas flaring gives emission of various greenhouse gases and also particulates; these are parts of the major concerns for the current climate change and global warming. Useful energy which could have been used in the area of power generation is being wasted and other carbon intensive processes used and this represents given up to the environment emissions (from two major sources) which could have been conveniently being from one source and this being by the use of natural gas as the major power generation fuel and then an efficient distribution process to all power and energy users.
1.4 Existing Natural gas projects (NLNG)
The Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Ltd is the largest natural gas utilization project in Nigeria. It is located in Bonny Island in the oil-rich southern part of the country. It is jointly owned by Agip (10.4%), Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) (49%), Shell (25.6%), and TotaFinaElf (15%). There are a total of 5 trains with trains 1 and 2 starting operations in September 1999, the majority supplying the Europe and US markets and by the end of 2005, 3 more trains came on board which shoot up production to 28million cubic meters per day, and of this total amount only 30% of AG is used also obvious is the fact that the company was not set up to serve the domestic market. To further corroborate this point was the recently completed Escravos gas plant expansion in late 2009, the plant is expected to increase the daily processing capacity by about 300million cubic feet but basically for exportation (Chevron 2010).
2.0 CURRENT ENERGY AND POWER SITUATIONS IN NIGERIA
Both the environmental and economic reasons should be the main drive behind the discontinuity of natural gas routine flares in Nigeria, which are yet to be fully implemented or operational. Also the ineffective laws prohibiting the continuous flare of natural gas has been seen as one of the reasons why the companies involved in the oil production in the country to continuously carry on with the flaring of natural gas which they are only required to pay a certain amount of money to continue flaring of natural gas, thus the companies have found an easier and economic way to go by just paying the levy which was as low as N 10.00 (0.46 US $ equivalence) per 28 cubic metres in January 1998 (Odubela and Omoniyi 1996 in sonibare). Presently, the penalty that oil companies' pay at the moment is $3.50 per 1,000 cubic feet of gas flared (Reuters, 2009).
2.2 Natural gas in industrial use
A very few section of industries in the eastern and western parts of the country is supplied by the present gas distribution networks and this have been in place as far back as the country's independence selling gas to industries in Port Harcourt in the southern part of the country. The majority of this distribution networks is owned by Nigerian Gas Company (NGC). Escravos to Lagos Pipeline system (ELPS) is about 514km in length and supplies industries in the western parts of Ikeja-Lagos and a few more in the Agbara-Ota axis which was connected in 2003. This is still an insignificant amount considering the number of industries which could have been connected to the network if it was evenly distributed all around the country. As a result of the limited domestic market for gas and the high cost associated with gas development (coupled with the low levies), the oil companies operating in the country have refused to embark on a serious gas development program which would be of a great benefit to the nation and a source of major cut in the emission capacity of the nation which is the right way to go for a sustainable development to be achieved.
The nature of natural gas around which current utilization projects are centred is also of a great concern; though in most cases NAG supply is required as reserve for feedstock back up whenever occasion demands, some existing projects place little reliance on AG. Hence, existing projects hold little scope for absorbing flared gas, but with just a little treatment, AG will just be as useful as NAG and with the world environmental concern for emission such a little treatment if overlooked and gas flared the level of the GHG in the atmosphere increases.
2.3 Power generation
The nation's major electricity producer (National Electric Power Authority, NEPA) is another major consumer of natural gas in thermal stations consuming a total of about 36million cubic meters per day for generating 3410MW of electricity at the stations' best performance. Unfortunately, these stations are always in a poor state which makes this unattainable. In most cases, these stations are always down and not generating. A few independent power producer (IPP) have been approved to generate electricity which will use appreciable feedstock of natural gas and when all these stations are fully operational they will generate 5682MW but with the current inadequacies of these stations and some of the approved IPP yet to begin production the total power generation of the country staggers between 2000MW and 2500MW, this is outlined in Table 2. With the country's power projection of daily demand of 1000MW by 2007, there is need for a drive for greater investment into the use of AG and NAG alike in the power generation and also other technologies to involve the use of Natural gas as source of power, this will reduce emission in terms of flaring and lesser emission when burnt in power generation unlike other fossil fuels.
Table 2: Electricity generation stations in Nigeria (May, 2003)
Year of commissioning
% of installed capacity
Source: NEPA (2003)
2.4 Petroleum Refineries
Aside power generation, another major problem in the energy sector of the country is the refined petroleum products (downstream fuel) supply, at optimum operation the 4 refineries in the country have a total capacity of 445,000 bpd (barrels per day) of crude oil to produce, 14million litres of PMS (Premium motor spirit) and 24million litres of other refined products (including AGO-Automotive gas and oils and DPK-Dual purpose kerosene) and this caters for just about 38% of the daily need of these products. Table 3 shows the production capacities of the refineries. Using the flared natural gas to fill this energy supply gaps as identified both in this situation and power generation would be of a greater benefit towards a sustainable environment and considering the distribution of natural gas would be through pipelines(onshore and offshore) makes it less prone to diversion as it is in the case of liquid fuels which always results in artificial scarcity; this of course due to the shortage of supplies and this would be eliminated with using the natural gas as a complement to the energy supplies locally. Government determination to increase the local use of natural gas should be directed towards encouraging more private investors into natural gas utilization projects and will soon be a good starting point in achieving this aim.
Investment in the development of natural gas-fired thermal stations to generate electricity should be encouraged. This coupled with other uses of such as use for domestic cooking and industrial uses (which will be discussed later) will be a good way to increase the domestic market development of natural gas, this will in turn cut down flaring and subsequent eradication as progress is being made in technology and increased demand in local supply.
Table 3: Nigeria's refinery production capacity
Year of commissioning
Port Harcourt 1
Port Harcourt 2
Source: NNPC (2002)
3.0 USING NATURAL GAS TO FILL THE GAPS
3.1 Use of CNG in cars
Nigeria should join in the increasing use of cars that run on compressed natural gas (CNG). There have been an increasing number of cars that run on natural gas instead of gasoline. There are about 130000 of such cars in the United States of America and about 2million worldwide (PGE, 2003). The natural gas used in this case is compressed into special high pressure cylinders to get more of the gas into a smaller volume. This is called compressed natural gas. Some other types of cars run on Liquefied Natural gas (LNG) which is made by refrigerating natural gas to condense it into liquid. This liquid is denser and therefore has more amount of energy stored per unit of space, this implies that more energy can be obtained by using the same amount of space. This is an important consideration for the efficient and economic use of energy.
The abundant gas resources in Nigeria can be used as a means to augment the supply inadequacies of the liquid petroleum sector and also be a means of reducing the environmental impact of gas flaring. Cars fuelled by natural gas run cleaner than other vehicles. When compared with other cars that run on diesel or gasoline, they produce much less amounts of pollutants and costs less to maintain. Natural gas is also a relatively cheaper fuel costing less than gasoline and diesel (PGE, 2003).
Though the amount of natural gas that will be required at the initial stage of this may be very small thereby having a very small effect on gas flaring activities. If this culture is maintained and more cars dependent on natural gas are brought on stream, this will definitely reduce severely the wastes associated with gas flaring.
3.2 Natural gas for cooking
Natural gas can be used as the main source of cooking in Nigeria, with the current method is Liquefied Petroleum gas (LPG) being made available in bottles and the price is usually not stable due to the inefficient legislation and implementation by the regulatory body established by the Petroleum Equalization fund act of 1975 and also due to the non-compliance of major distributors (Thisday, 2011). Making natural gas available to homes through a well spread pipeline distribution network will bring about an increase in the current number of consumers of Natural gas for cooking. This can be started either with a pilot project starting from either the state capitals only, with cities with populations of over 40,000 or from the existing 11 districts in the NEPA distribution network. The geographical location of the country does not make space heating required in any part of the country throughout the year so the main supply of natural gas to homes will be basically for cooking.
Air pollution in the nation is becoming alarming with the increasing use of wood waste as a means of fuel for cooking (Dionco-Adetayo, 2001; Tabuti et al., 2003) owing to the attendant scarcity of kerosene and this has led to a continuous increase in deforestation (Dzioubinski and Chipman, 1999), since wood (wood wastes) has now become the available fuel (Adeoti et al. 2001). The act of deforestation is definitely detrimental to the environment as the forest is a sink for carbon via the biological process of photosynthesis; CO2 is taken away from the atmosphere. With this in mind, there is a need to discontinue this process if climate change and its issue of poisonous emissions are to be abated in the country. Increased use of natural gas would be an available way out of this current state of unsustainability. Focus on the expansion of the natural gas pipeline network in the nation will be a good start towards a sustainable development and this will stimulate the increase in the use of natural gas as a means of cooking in homes.
According to the CIA World fact Book 2003, Nigeria has a total of 193,200km of road network both paved and unpaved, approximately 3000km and 2042km of pipelines for petroleum and crude oil respectively and 3505km of railway lines. Current gas pipeline network is just about 1100km and there is need for a purpose driven agenda to have more homes connected to the gas pipeline networks. A pilot phase could be a good way to start out the project. Gas pipelines are usually buried deep down into the earth to reduce the risks of explosion and this also reduces the probability of it being diverted to cause artificial scarcity as it is the case for liquid fuels which are usually transported in tankers.
3.3 Natural gas for electricity power generation
The bulk of the gas flared in the country is produced in the exploration of crude oil (associated gas). Rather than flaring this gas, it can be used in the generation of electricity. During the 1970's and 80's, large electricity generating plants were powered by coal or nuclear sources but a shift in technology, environmental and economic policies has made natural gas the new desired fuel. Natural gas can be used as a main source of electricity generation to supplement the current unsteady power situation in the country. About half of the nation's electric power generating plants are hydro powered and with the geographical location of the country, these plants always have severe drops in power generated during the dry (harmattan) season. Existing power stations need to be revamped and new Independent power projects (IPP) brought on board. These overhauls and bringing of new plants on board should ensure that the plants are designed to work with associated gas. This will probably be the highest consumer of gas. When this is successfully implemented, the nation is not only salvaged from the usual power cuts but also reducing the environmental effects of gas flaring. In order for this project to be successful, the pipeline network in the country needs to be increased to allow for the gas fired power generating facilities to be decentralised and allow for less loss in the transmission of electricity over long distances. Each state of the federation can come up with a gas fired plant in order to meet its local needs and appreciable amount of gas flared will go into this and almost eliminate flaring of associated gas if not totally.
The basic consideration of using natural gas for cooking in Nigeria can be predicated on the number of household and the amount of cooking done daily. Sonibare and Akeredolu analysed in 2006, the use of natural gas for cooking in homes was based on three scenarios and each case being a model for a pilot stage on which expansions and larger scales can be considered.
The first case considered the use of gas in all homes for cooking in the state capitals. Each home was estimated to have 6 members and with a demand of 263kg of coal equivalent per year, this is about 0.5m3 per day for each household (using thermal equivalence). About 2 million households are calculated to be in these capital cities. This will consume about 1 million m3 per day of natural gas.
The second case was based on connecting all cities with a population of above 40000 to the gas network, with the same statistics of persons per household and demand. This increased the number of cities to 103 with 4.8 million households expected to use about 1.4 million m3 per day of natural gas. The last scenario considered was that, as proposed earlier considering the use of natural gas in all the NEPA districts. This increase furthers the number of households that will be connected to the network and an estimated 1.7 million m3 per day of natural gas will be consumed rather than flared.
Table 4 outlines the use of natural gas for these 3 scenarios and from this table it can be seen that as more households are served by the gas network for cooking purposes more of the natural gas otherwise flared will be put to use as a source of energy. This will in turn decrease the GHG emissions to the atmosphere.
Table 4: Scenarios for domestic natural gas consumption via cooking.
Number of Households
Potential Daily consumption (m3)
Cities with population greater than 40,000
Table 4 summarises a details data presented in the appendix as Tables 5, 6 and 7, which is a breakdown of the populations, households and the potential volume of gas that will be used under each circumstance as examined. The amount of gas that will be consumed in this practise depends on the number of households that were able to be served by the pipeline network. For instance, Lagos shows a very drastic increase in the volume of gas consumed as more households were served. This is a representation of the fact that there is need to have the gas pipeline network reaching more areas of the country and more households served to have a reduction in the volume of gas flared and thus reduced environmental degradation.
To further emphasize this, Figure 5 below shows the level of consumption of gas in proportion to the number of households participating in each of the scenarios.
Figure 5: Domestic natural gas consumption via cooking
In addition to natural gas use in homes for cooking, it can also be used in the generation of electricity and this is a justified means to stop the environmental menace of flaring as well as give a stable source of power to the nation. This can be achieved from the expansion of the pipeline network in the country. The state governments can be involved in the generation of electricity by starting up mini-plants of each about 120MW, with the 36 states in the federation this will generate a total of 4320MW of electricity using up 45 million m3 of natural gas per day. Going a step further in this is the acquisition of power plants by each of the 6 geo-political zones in the country. If each of these 6 plants produces 360MW, there is more 4320MW of electricity using up another 45 million m3 of natural gas per day. Though this will require some more gas than that being flared but NAG can be used to augment this deficit and the power generation capacity of the nation rising to 8640MW.
The use of natural gas as a vehicle fuel is not expected to have as much impact on the amount of gas being flared but environmentally this is not a fruitless effort. This is based on the fact of natural gas being a much less polluting fuel than other fossil fuels. A step in the right direction will be the creation of gas refill service points to serve the commuting public.
4.1 Economic and Environmental loss
Nigeria benefits from considerable oil investment revenues but this does not translate into economic prosperity and energy security for its citizens. Energy poverty is still as issue of great concern in the nation with the oil and gas companies not tackling these issues head on, they do not exploit the available opportunities of the natural gas reserves in the country as well as the renewables.
Gas flaring has gone on for decades in Nigeria; this is with several unsuccessful attempts to end the practice by Government and its agencies. The paltry sums paid as fines by companies has been seen as one of the reasons why the act of gas flaring is going on still in Nigeria which has already been established to have negative impacts on both human health and the environment. There have been calls to make companies that continue in this act to pay fines equal to the volume of gas flared according to the prevailing international gas market price. Calls like this and several others as made in the recommendations for the amendment of the Bill on Associated gas re-injection (act No 99 of 1979 and cap A25 laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004) has not been pursued to a logical conclusion and this has continually made the companies to continue to fail on the deadlines to stop flaring of natural gas (234Next news, 2010). Flaring of associated gas has gone on from the beginning of oil production in the southern part of the country. A total of 2.5 billion cubic feet (over 70 million m3) of gas is flared per day (Reuters, 2007) and this represents 40% of the annual gas production and 12.5% of the gas flared globally (EIA). This has earned the nation the second position with the highest gas flaring in the world after Russia. An estimated amount of 2.5 billion dollars is lost annually due to gas flaring, this could have been revenue channelled to the provision of social infrastructure for the populace. In addition to this economic loss, about 70 million tonnes of CO2 is let into the atmosphere due to gas flaring and these calls for an environmental concern owing to the impacts of climate change (FOE, 2004 and Shaad & Wilson, 2009).
The flaring of gas in Nigeria has been recorded to contribute more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than other sources in sub-Saharan Africa all together. Rather than this being used as a source of fuel it is burnt off and nobody benefits form the energy contained in the fuel rather constituting environmental degradation, this was described by Friend of the Environment (FOE) in 2004 as an unnecessary contributor to climate change. Visibly being felt in the region now is the impact of climate change such as food insecurity, increasing risks of diseases and intense weather damage.
4.2 Ethical Considerations
Ethically speaking the high flammability and risk factors of the Natural gas may make it an unacceptable route in its usage as a major form of energy supply in homes and other utilities but if well managed and with proper precautionary measures in place, natural gas will be a very convenient and good start in the journey towards a sustainable future for the country.
According to Frynas (2009), companies are expected to help more in the solving of the many pressing problems of the world, a major one being climate change. The corporate social responsibilities (CSR) of companies are seen as a way of addressing the impacts of its social and environmental activities. There has been an increased sabotage in the southern part of the country, this is due to the fact that the residents and inhabitants of this crude oil bearing region claim to have nothing in return. There is a wide proclaimed fact that if the companies put in some more effort into its CSR in these regions, sabotage will be eliminated. Reports show that local communities and villages living around this region still rely on wood for fuel and candle sticks for light (FOE, 2004).
The flaring of natural gas releases toxic substances to the atmosphere such as benzene and particulates, this is in addition to the potent greenhouse gas methane. Benzene and particulates have been said to destroy the human immune system and also increases the risk of acid rain. Children in this region have been reported with cases of respiratory illnesses, asthma and cancer because of the activities of the gas flaring and oil exploration (BBC, 2009). Families that live on fishing and agriculture as a means of livelihood have been rendered helpless also because of the negative impacts of these activities on fishes and vegetation (Shaad and Wilson, 2009). Among these is the rise in temperature of water bodies which is destructive to the aquatic vegetation. There are also cases of spillage from gas fields which contaminates the water bodies.
The laying of the underground pipelines is another area in which there will be a possible dispute. Taking for instance the hardship that people will have to go through and all other inconveniences but this is certainly a necessary pain to have to enjoy the good dividends that natural gas use will bring to the energy situation of the country. An example was in the case of the laying of the dedicated Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lane in Lagos state but the pains and inconveniences were soon forgotten when the scheme started and it actually did ease a lot on traffic on the highway with people opting to go more with the public BRT buses.
Another major ethical issue of great concern is the particular interest of the oil firms in the nation concentrating on the exportation of LNG. The current energy situation in the nation does not make the exportation of energy resources a reasonable route to ply. With the on-going energy crises, citizens are grappling to have stable sources of energy. There is need to have in place an efficient and proper legislation to have energy resources exported only when the needs of the domestic market is met.
Achieving ethical, energy and environmental sustainability in Nigeria for future demands of energy is definitely an issue that is meant to be pushed to the forefront of the nation's development agenda. This is as a matter of fact one of the stepping stones to accelerating the development of the nation as it concerns its industrial development and domestic satisfaction of its citizens in terms of energy supply and environmental quality.
Natural gas being a readily available source of energy and a relatively less polluting fossil fuel is expected to be a great start for the nation in order to satisfy its energy needs. It is also important to emphasize here that a sizeable amount of the environmental degradation of the nation will be reduced if the natural gas that is otherwise being flared id put to a judicious use to improve the energy situation in the country.
Attempts to resolve the "wasteful" flaring of the natural gas in Nigeria failed due to inefficient legislation. The paltry fines being paid by the companies involved in this act coupled with the unavailability of infrastructure depending on associated gas (which is most of what is being flared) has been some of the reasons for the continuous flaring of natural gas in the nation. Domestic consumption (industrial and electricity generation), export as LNG and re-injection are some of the current utilization of natural gas in Nigeria but mostly depend on non-associated gas and has not been of any major help to halt gas flaring which is an environmental menace.
The use of natural gas for cooking is evidently not a huge consumer of the fuel but the reduced environmental problems in the country will make this a worthwhile venture. Its use for electricity generation is expected to have a huge impact on the energy situation as well as the improvement of the environmental quality but the prerequisite to this will be the expansion of the pipeline network to the various parts of the country.
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