Oct 6, 2020

Gas Flaring In Nigeria: Risks And Recommendations | B. Adeniran

When oil was discovered in the 1950s, the country was full of gaiety thinking the ‘god of wealth’ had finally visited Nigeria. The discovery of oil is however also one of the worst things to have happened as the Niger Delta region is afflicted by environmental degradation induced by oil spillage and gas flaring. Flares from Niger Delta account for a major percentage of global flares. It is reported that over 386 million cubic feet of natural gas is flared every day in Nigeria. How the environment is managed has a direct bearing on the quality of life of every living being. Thus, the poor management and pollution of our environment is bound to cause irremediable damage to human existence and could make the earth inhabitable for man, if urgent care is not taken.


Gas flaring releases greenhouse gases and toxic pollutants into the atmosphere which have environmental and psychological impacts on plant species, wildlife, marine life and human life(1). Gas flares emit methane, sulfur dioxide, and other volatile organic compounds which are known to exacerbate respiratory problems(2). As a result, residents of oil producing communities in Nigeria live in tortuous conditions arising from acute environmental degradations, air and water pollutions, caused by the production activities of oil and gas companies in the area(3). Many of these communities have no potable water and rely on these polluted stream water or possibly acidic rain water.


One of the major reasons for the non-development of natural gas is the lack of a ready local market and the high cost of access to international markets. Although gas is a cheap energy source, especially associated gas (which incurs no added cost of exploration), its development has been limited owing to the fact that its cost of transportation is higher and more difficult than that of petroleum. Gas was not a popular energy source at the time exploration facilities currently used in Nigeria were built, hence the oversight of gas gathering. Consequently, about 75% of produced gas is flared because it simply is not as lucrative as petroleum(4). Some secondary reasons include incompetent leadership and corruption.


The United Nations has taken steps towards achieving a greener environment for all. One major outcome of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development was the development of a set of Sustainable Development Goals. These goals, many of which are associated with the pursuit of a greener environment, have raised discussions across the globe and countries have, in response, made policies and laws in line with these goals. Additionally, the objective of the Earth Charter is to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace (4). Some policies and regulations made in Nigeria in respect of environmental preservation include; The Gas Flaring (Prohibition and Punishment) Bill of 2017, the West African Gas Pipeline Project (Special Provision) Act of 2005, among others. However, these laws are rather weak and sketchy.




The government must first invest in the gas market/industry, making available the necessary transport and storage infrastructure for gas production. Although expensive, it will pay the government in the long run. Seeing as gas is a cleaner energy alternative to petroleum. The gas industry will not only create a means of revenue for the government, it will also create a greener environment.


Increase Demand:

The supply and demand for natural gas are at present, imbalanced. To reduce waste of Natural gas or gas flaring, the demand for gas must first increase. Although natural gas is mostly seen as a cooking or heating fuel, it has many other energy and raw material uses. Natural gas is used as a heat source in making glass, steel, cement, bricks, ceramics, tile, paper, food products and many other commodities. Natural gas is also used at many industrial facilities for incineration. Gas powered vehicles can replace petroleum powered vehicles as they emit less smog-producing pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions. Same goes for house-hold generators. This proposition will however not sell unless petroleum is jettisoned.


Securing the International market:

The world’s largest natural gas consumers are, the United States of America, Russia, Iran, Germany, China, etc. Germany, for example, imports more than half of its Natural gas. Nigeria can take advantage of this fact, making profitable deals with these countries instead of burning off natural gas.


Ban enforcements:

Addressing the issue of gas flaring in Nigeria may appear difficult seeing that Gas flaring which has been illegal in Nigeria since the 20th century is still a matter of grave concern till date. The Flare Gas (Prevention of Waste and Pollution) Regulations of 2018 proposed a penalty of $2 per thousand standard cubic feet metre of gas for oil anyone producing 10,000 barrels of oil per day or more and $0.5 for anyone producing less than 10,000 barrels of oil per day. Strict enforcement of the 2018 regulation by the Federal government will deter companies from flaring gas.


The bad news is that the world we know and love is falling apart, the good news is that there is still time to fix it. Whether we will be here tomorrow is dependent on our actions today. A wise man once said, “look after the land, and the land will look after you. Destroy the land, and it will destroy you”. We either go green, or go home.



1. Eyes on Nigeria: Gas Flaring. American Association for the Advencement of Science.

2. Frequent, Routine Flaring May Cause Excessive, Uncontrolled Sulfur Dioxide Releases. United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2000.

3. Oil spills in Nigeria: health risks and environmental degradation. Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for Disaster Reduction.

4. Yemi, Oke. Nigerian Energy Resources, Law and Practise. Princeton & Associates, 2019.

5. Oluwabukunmi, Adeniran. Intellectual Property and Green Innovation. LegalNaija, August 2020.

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