Royal Dutch Shell Plc  .com Rotating Header Image Nigeria: Will Gas Flaring End in January?

Daily Trust (Abuja)
26 November 2007

Broken promises, lack of commitment, shady deals and ignored legislations have marred the history of flare-out targets in Nigeria. The country’s oil resources have been exploited for more than four decades.

Yet, oil companies including Shell, ExxonMobil and TotalFinaElf continue to profit from the resource, while communities in the oil-rich but conflict-ridden areas live in polluted environment where the gas associated with oil extraction is burnt off in to the atmosphere. While 99% of associated gas is used or re-injected into the ground in western Europe, Nigeria at present accounts for 20% of the total gas flared in the world, making it second to none in flaring. Within Nigeria, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) flares more gas than any other oil company.
Representatives of the major oil companies operating in Nigeria collectively reached an agreement with the government in August 2000 that the required phase-out of gas flaring would be met by January 1, 2008. This was to replace a previous deadline of 2004. However, multinational oil companies have recently appealed to the federal government again to shift the terminal date of zero-flare in all oil fields in the country to 2010 even though the abandoned “Vision 2010” report had earlier set the same 2008 as deadline for ending gas flaring in Nigeria. While making the appeal at the 25th Annual Conference of the Nigeria Association of Petroleum Explorationists (NAPE), the Area Manager, Nigeria, ExxonMobil Corporation, Ms Kim Bates, cited insecurity in the Niger Delta region of the country and pricing regime as part of the problems prompting their proposal for a new target date.

Government’s inability to put teeth on its policies and lack of commitment by oil companies as reflected in undue postponements of the end date is a serious cause for concern to many Nigerians. The consequent public perception that continued gas flaring is a stitch-up between government and the oil companies is thus a reasonable one.

Gas flaring emits cocktails of benzene and other toxic substances that are harmful to humans, animals, plants and the entire physical environment of man. Scientific studies have shown that exposure to benzene and its metabolites causes leukemia and respiratory disorders, which have led to the premature death of many Nigerians living in gas flaring areas. Similarly, the continued process of gas flaring has not only allowed potential energy source to go up in smoke resulting in to colossal loss of revenue, but is equally a major contributor to air pollution and acid rain. Acid rain acidifies lakes, rivers and streams, and damages vegetation. In addition, it accelerates the decay of roofing sheets and other building materials. Climate change, generally, is the cumulative effect of gas flaring.

The excuses posited by oil companies including the one advanced by SPDC that their request for a new deadline is prompted by the non completion of the construction of gas gathering facilities, are just not good enough. They all knew of all of these and other issues at the time they accepted the deadline. Even the Bonny LNG plant, which was the ‘anchor’ of Shell’s flare-out plans has also not helped matters because it has used less associated gas than promised.

We call on the government to urgently review existing gas policy in the country with a view to compelling oil companies to making zero flaring of gas a reality. Government must also be seen to be committed to the provisions of article 20 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by protecting and safeguarding the water, air and land that is used or inhabited by Nigerians. Likewise, the claim that it is difficult for government to clamp down on defaulting operators is a non-plausible subterfuge to justify gas flaring in the country. We suggest that government should introduce fines as penalties for erring operators who flare gas after December 31, 2007. This can effectively be achieved if government officials would desist from conniving with oil firms in their acts of sabotage against efforts to end gas flaring.

We equally advise oil companies to stop negotiating for ‘appropriate’ gas pricing (which in effect only benefits them) as a condition for investing in gas gathering projects that would deliver natural gas to power generation stations, the steel industry, fertilizer plants, and residential estates. Nigerians certainly desire to benefit from the dividend of the oil and gas industry. President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua should ensure that gas flaring ends as scheduled. and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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