GASIN in partnership with the National Oil Spill Detection and response Agency (NOSDRA) organized a Stakeholder’s Joint Workshop on the theme “Creating and Improving Linkages between Communities, Government Regulatory Agencies and the Oil and Gas Operators.” The communities in focus are the four communities in ONELGA: Obrikom, Mgbede, Okwuizi and Aggah, where GASIN has a Gas Alert Project ongoing.
The workshop was graced by the media and complete representatives of the stakeholders of the facilities in these communities. The regulators present were the NOSDRA, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Rivers state Ministry of Environment (RSMOE) and the National Environmental Standards, Regulation and Enforcement Agency (NESREA). The oil and gas company that attended was the Nigeria Agip Oil Company Limited (NAOC), which is the major operator of the facilities in the communities in question. The communities were represented by their respective Paramount Rulers, Community Development Committee (CDC) Chairmen, Women Leaders, Youth Presidents and GASIN’s Gas Monitoring Group (GMG) leaders.
Keynote addresses and goodwill speeches were presented by all the regulators present, and the communities made presentations on pressing issues that affect them with regard to the oil and gas exploitation activities in their respective communities. The issues raised by the communities cut across environmental and health effects, corporate social responsibility (CSR), oil theft and sabotage.
The presentations were followed by very serious discussions, questions and answers by the stakeholders present on the way forward. A communique was raised and signed at the end of workshop.
Commenting on the workshop, all the participants commended the GASIN-NOSDRA partnership for the initiative. GASIN, headed by Rev. Fr. (Dr.) Edward Obi, who also doubles as the National Coordinator of NACGOND, was very much applauded by all, including NOSDRA, for their uncommon commitment to proffering and facilitating sustainable solutions to the lingering challenges encountered in the course of oil and gas exploitation in the communities. Everone at the workshop hopes that the partnership will continue and workshops of this kind will be frequently organized so as to address the pressing issues raised.
Nigeria's potential as a major global gas supply and utilisation hub is high. Available statistics show that even without a dedicated gas exploration regime, Nigeria has at present the 7th highest proven gas reserves in the world, with 183 Trillion Cubic Feet. This is gas that has been discovered in the process of exploring for petrol. We also have the potential of realising over 600 TCF, which would place us at 4th position worldwide.
The FGN believes that in order to realise and sustain this potential, the structure of the gas sector must support continued cost effectiveness in supply of all markets (domestic, regional and export), scalability of capacity and above all, must be fully liberalized and market driven. Hence, the Nigerian Gas Master-plan (NGMP) has been developed and presented to investors since 2008. Among others, this Master plan proposes franchising three major Gas Processing Facilities (CPFs), all located in the Niger Delta region – Western Delta, around the Forcados area; Central Delta, north of Port Harcourt; and South East Delta, between Uyo and Calabar. Each of these Facilities is expected to process at least 1000 MMscf/d (standard cubic feet per day), but in fact 2,500 MMscf/d of raw gas. Largely overlooked, however, is the fact that significant amounts of toxic waste will be generated on a daily basis.
The purpose of this presentation is to show that from conception to full design, this Master-plan so far fails to take into consideration the safe disposal of, and probable environmental hazards associated with, these toxic by-products and after-effects of the dehydration of gas using chemicals. From all presentations to investors in the industry it has become clear that the logic of economic benefits to be gained predominates, and environmental consequences are not touched on. Apparently there is the fear of scaring off investors when environmental aspects are brought into the equation. For instance, nowhere in it has consideration been given to human persons that might be affected and impacted by this budding gas industry.
The toxic by-products of this process, as I shall demonstrate, are many and varied, and may bear down directly on the human, animal and aquatic populations in the Niger Delta. My plea is for the inclusion in the overall architecture of the Master plan, and its implementation, a full Life-Cycle Cost (LCC) that indicates not only the initial Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) for building the plants, but also the Operational Expenditure (OPEX) from conception to final removal of these facilities when their lifespan is exhausted. I shall suggest that it makes more economic sense to invest now in available clean technology than be saddled with the burden of disposing toxic wastes later on.
When extracted from the ground, natural gas usually contains significant quantities of water and other water-based and organic compounds. This is called 'wet gas”. During production, transportation and processing, changes in pressure and ambient temperature can lead to water condensation, ice and/or gas hydrate formation, or corrosion in the facilities. Dehydration, therefore, is one of the major processes in any gas processing plant, and Ethylene Glycol (EG) has been the chemical of choice for this industrial process since the 1960s.
EG on its own is a common industrial chemical which has no extreme hazardous properties. Due to its hygroscopic (water-absorbing) properties, its natural affinity for hydroxyl (-O-H-), or water based functional groups, EG is an economical way of stripping the gas of its associated water. Water (H2O), in the chemical structure H=O-H, where the O-H is the chemically active part, will be chemically bonded to the EG. Based on this, the lean EG will absorb water in a counter-current contact with the wet gas and consequently dry it, thanks to its hygroscopy.
In a gas processing facility this is done in a so-called glycol contactor. The dry gas rises up and is conducted through pipes for use elsewhere, or is liquefied for easy transportation; the associated water, now heavy with EG is, on the other hand, routed from the bottom of the contactor and removed. The process could well have ended here, but in order to avoid a permanent supply of fresh EG, operators have developed a re-generation process for the 'used' or water-heavy EG. The process itself is simple: the used or heavy EG is collected and heated to its boiling point in this system, and in that way the water (plus other associated -OH compounds) is released from the EG (i.e., boiled off).
This water, now in vapour phase, is vented into the atmosphere via a stack or chimney, and what remains is almost pure EG, which can once again be returned and reused in the process. The entire process has a good efficiency rate, because common practise shows the requirement of fresh EG is limited to 5-10%. So, apparently this 5-10% is lost somewhere in the process, and this happens during each and every sequence, continuously. However, 90-95% of EG is saved, and is re-circulated via the contactor to the MEG-Regeneration Unit all over again. (Note some of the acronyms used in the literature - MEG: mono-ethyl-glycol, DEG: di-ethyl-glycol, TEG: tri-ethyl-glycol, and TETRA EG: Tetra-ethyl-glycol).
The problem, however, is that in boiling one adds heat (energy) to the system containing the used EG, which has already bonded with water. But EG also bonds with other components that behave similarly with water: components that also have an active -OH functional group, e.g. phenol, alcohol, etc., and consequently react similarly. These include also organic molecules, small ones like alcohols, but also bigger ones like phenols, etc.
In other words, any chemical with an end-standing functional –O-H group could possibly react with EG in this process, in a similar way as water does. As energy levels are high due to the heating, the resulting mix will contain many variations, subject to nature's random occurrence. So a part of the loss, an estimated amount of 80% of it, will leave the regeneration system as a vapour, and a part will precipitate and settle in the system. The vapour part is referred to by process technologists as BTX, referring to Benzene-Toluene-Xylene. These BTX compounds are naturally very toxic, and leave the EG regeneration-system with the water-vapour vented into the atmosphere. The remaining 20% settles down in the MEG-regen-unit and forms a carcinogenic black tar residue, continuously. When the vented vapour (i.e. the 80%) ultimately cools off through ambient temperatures, the gaseous compounds may condensate and/or precipitate, and disappear into the groundwater, which may be in use for human consumption.
BTX-compounds can go through the human skin, so breathing, bathing and washing will do the damage equally. One does not even need to drink the contaminated water to be affected. Breathing is not a pleasant option either, because the smell one perceives when approaching a MEG-regen-unit is very strong and penetrating, leaving one with the unmistakable impression that this cannot be healthy. The black tar, on the other hand, accumulates in the re-gen-system. At a moment in time, say bi-annually, this has to be removed lest it affect the efficiency of the system. The tar is extremely carcinogenic.
Once again, to regenerate the EG, one adds (heat) energy to the system. But this energy is also sufficient to have EG react with salts and create fur-like deposits in the boiling system, just like one gets magnesium and calcium-based deposits on a cooker/boiler when (hard) water is brought to boiling point. This energy can also cause other -OH-molecules to react to/with other substances as well, which may have accompanied the wet gas from the earth. Here a special group of so-called aromatic compounds comes to mind. These have an exceptionally reactive end-group. Phenol is the -OH-variant.
The toxicity of toluene can be explained mostly by its metabolism. As toluene has very low water solubility, it cannot exit the body via the normal routes (urine, feces, or sweat). It must be metabolized in order to be excreted. Xylene exhibits neurological effects. High levels from exposure for acute (14 days or less) or chronic periods (more than 1 year) can cause headaches, lack of muscle coordination, dizziness, confusion, and imbalance
Studies of unborn animals indicate that high concentrations of xylene may cause increased numbers of deaths, and delayed growth and development. The principal pathway of human contact is via soil contamination from leaking underground storage tanks containing petroleum products. Humans who come into contact with the soil or groundwater may become affected. Use of contaminated groundwater as a water supply could lead to adverse health effects.
Note that the compounds so far named are formed during the required boiling process to regenerate EG, and it is the lost 5-10% that often reacts with other micro-molecules in the natural gas, increasing their boiling point, and making them impossible to break down. These will therefore ultimately remain as residue: a black carcinogenic tar that can only be incinerated at very high temperatures. The problem: nature uses process kinetics with the implication that adding energy like heat will result in a new stable compound at a higher energy level, and this means, to change the new compound, one must add even more energy. How much energy can humans generate in order to break down the stable compounds they might ingest/assimilate? Very little, indeed.
3. Implications for Human Beings
Now the human body can provide a limited amount of chemical energy to deal with strange chemical compounds, normally sufficient to deal with normal natural environmental compounds with average energy levels required to break them down. But if the body cannot provide sufficient energy, the high-energy-level compound stays untouched and is stored in fat-layers in the body, or worse: in the organs. And sometimes, these chemicals remain active and can react with internal body-compounds like enzymes and proteins and amino acids, which happen to be the basic building block of a substance called de-oxy-ribo-nucleic-acid, better known as DNA.
Once the DNA starts to replicate via a duplication kinetic called t-RNA-polymerase, a chemical reaction triggered by an enzyme, it will duplicate the amino acids in sequence, and also affect any changed amino acid, which could ultimately cause genetic defects in humans as this duplication process is sensitive and fragile. These defects may be simple and of no consequence if they are not on a key-functional part of the DNA. But who can guarantee this? If, however, they happen to be on a key-part, serious defects can occur, and these will ultimately result in defects at birth, immediately affecting the health and ability of the new born one.
It must be borne in mind that our purpose is not to oppose the Federal Government's intention to exploit our vast resources of natural gas, as this is necessary to meet the cash-calls for reaching our developmental goals. At the same time, we know that development that does not factor in possible consequences for human beings is a contradiction in terms.
This is why we wish to reiterate that all the above mentioned toxic effects arise only when EG is used in the process of gas dehydration/purification. But there is now tested technology that does not require the use of EG, a good example being that in use right now in the Afam Gas Plant, which feeds Afam Power Station. My point is, since we know this technology exists, and is already being used at least in one gas plant in Nigeria, why not replicate it in others as well? Prevention, as they say, is better than cure; so why do we not choose to avoid the toxicity of BTX wastes by making a safe technology choice now, rather than be saddled with the social and environmental impact, and the possible political fallouts of unsafe disposal of these carcinogenic wastes? So far the only reason militating against this is the economics of cost-saving and profitmaking. But I do not find this convincing, because if one looks seriously at the equation, we must base our economic model on LCC, life cycle cost.
This means that the cost of a project must be calculated from the day of conceptual design to the moment of dismantling the plant, including operational expenses OPEX (i.e. proper waste removal during operation) and removal expenses (i.e. proper waste removal after operation), and not only capital expenditure CAPEX, or the initial cost for setting up a gas processing unit. My view is that if you take all the removal/disposal costs into consideration, even apart from the related environmental, social and political problems, new chemical-free technology will prevail in advantage over EG-dependent processes.
While we see the need for these operators to be given the freedom of choice to design and build their gas processing plants in the most economical way, we also wish to urge the government to be firm in dictating in as clear terms as possible, that:
o the use of environmentally friendly technology will prevail over the plant economics of the various operators;
o there will be a stringent regime of environmental regulations, including penalties to deter and/or punish environmentally unfriendly disposal of toxic wastes;
o the economics of waste disposal should be taken into account in the economic comparison of the total LCC (life-cycle cost) of the various technology concepts, in this way allowing a fair chance for new chemical-free technologies with different CAPEX/OPEX.
Nigeria cannot afford to produce its resources at the cost of its environment. China is a guiding example of nations that sought quick economic growth, and overlooked possible environmental consequences. They are living with those consequences now, and possibly paying a high price for the health of its citizens and remediation of their despoiled environments. That is one way the Nigerian economic growth strategy should not follow, because Nigeria is growing democracy whereas China can afford to brutalise its population into silence and acquiescence. Short term economics may suggest high revenues in the immediate and middle term future, but these revenues cannot meet the long term cost of cleaning the waste once they enter into the ecological system. As the people have no option to relocate, since no such space is available in Nigeria, preserving what we have is the only way forward.
Rev Fr Dr Edward Obi is a Nigerian priest, born and now working in the Niger delta, where Nigeria’s oil is exploited.
He is the executive secretary of the Niger Delta Catholics Bishops Forum. The forum has been at the forefront of campaigning for good oil governance and inclusion of the host-communities of the Niger delta in the petroleum industry.
Recently, Dr Obi was invited to Kampala by Global Rights Alert (GRA), one of Uganda’s civil society organizations on oil and gas, and spoke on Nigeria’s oil journey. While in Uganda, Dr Obi told Edward Ssekika that so far, Uganda is on the right track with regard to the oil industry.
Whenever there is a discussion about the ‘oil curse, Nigeria is normally cited as an example. As religious leaders, what are you doing to reverse this and ensure oil benefits the ordinary people?
The Niger Delta Catholic Bishops Forum’s main task is to steer debate on the thorny issues of oil and gas in the delta. It became necessary to get the bishops involved because interventions and various efforts had faced a stalemate and there seemed to be no movement forward especially on the part of the church.
The bishops decided to come together and reignite their own interest in the issue. The story of oil in Nigeria is a long story. But there are certain key points that need to be noted. Oil was discovered in Nigeria over 60 years ago, actually in pre-independence.
At the eve of independence, the British already knew the concerns of the local people in regard to oil; so, the British actually set up a commission to try to address some of the fears of the minorities that live in the Niger delta. The British fell short of granting semi-autonomy to this area of Nigeria and simply indicated in their handover reports and in the first constitution that this area had to be treated in a special way due to its peculiarities.
The first problem we encountered was that oil was discovered when Nigerians were ill-prepared. We had no knowledge of what this was, no clear understanding of what we could do at the beginning and we didn’t even have the assistance of government to enable the people actually understand and be involved in the industry from the beginning.
As a result, oil was exploited for many years before people became aware of what was going on. When the people started getting aware of what was going on, government, actually military juntas that ruled Nigeria for many years, started to restrict them from getting involved in anything concerning oil.
Each of the military juntas saw oil as easy money that they could access. We had so much money and our problem was simply how to spend it. But the effect of the industry began to get to the people.
In 1978, the military administration of Gen Olusegun Obasanjo came up with a certain decree that dispossessed people of their land and gave all the land and all natural resources to the federal government of Nigeria. That Land Use Decree, a year later, was transformed into an act of parliament and it became the Land Use Act of 1979.
Now, by that stroke of a pen, all the local communities all over the country, but particularly in the areas where oil was being exploited, lost their land to government.
That meant that they could not negotiate directly with the oil companies.
Government made deals with oil companies and the companies simply moved in and started to exploit; whenever communities would ask, companies would say, ‘please, just discuss your issues with your government.’
So, that became a point of tension. This turned into pollution, loss of arable land as agriculture was downgraded in favour of the oil industry. When huge chunks of land were acquired for oil pipeline right of way, it meant ordinary communities could no longer farm and support themselves.
Were people compensated for the loss of their land?
No. If your land happened to be on the pipeline right of way or where any industry facility was to be set up, you would be thrown out without any compensation.
So, is the situation still the same today?
Actually the situation is still almost the same. The law has never been repealed; it is still in force. All of us Nigerians don’t own land as far as this act is concerned. We only get a certificate of occupancy and the government reserves the right to revoke that certificate of occupancy at any time.
For instance, if oil is discovered near your house, the government would simply revoke your certificate of occupancy of that piece of land in favour of the industry but currently with some meagre compensation.
So, communities have been evicted because of this law. It is a very unjust law. Efforts have been made by many civil society organizations to review that law but as far as I know, the efforts have not yet yielded results.
And what has the government done?
There are several joint ventures involving different oil companies and different percentages of equity between government and the oil companies. Now, if a government is a business partner with an oil company, its interest tilts in favour of the oil company. So, government negated its responsibility to protect the people.
It could not play a regulatory role because you can’t be a regulator and player in the same business at the same time. That is why the oil industry as such doesn’t seem to benefit ordinary people at all.
We, as religious leaders, consider this as an issue of justice, and the Catholic Church in particular we have a preferential option for the poor. We are actually taking side with the poor in the oil-producing areas whose lives have been changed by the industry.
What role are you actually playing?
We want dialogue to occur so that all sides, the communities, government agencies and the oil companies can come together and see how to resolve some of these sticky issues.
What has changed in Ogoni and Niger delta in general, after the 1995 death of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the other Ogoni chiefs?
What the killings of Saro-Wiwa and others did actually was to bring the story of the Ogoni suffering and pollution to the public forum. People have become more interested and are no longer as naïve as they were. They are now taking steps, suing companies, government and other collaborators.
As a coalition, we have come in one case at least in Bodo in Ogoniland and we have got Shell to sit around with the communities. Right now, we are negotiating for compensation. There has been a steady understanding by ordinary people of issues concerning their rights in relation to the oil industry.
For a long time, the government of Nigeria was playing an ostrich, pretending that there was no problem but because people are now aware, government can no longer pretend.
What is Uganda doing right or wrong in as far the industry is concerned and what lesson can we learn from Nigeria?
You [Uganda] have had the opportunity to learn from the mistakes that were made in Nigeria and other places. So, the chances of Ugandans repeating those mistakes are probably limited. Uganda at least has had discussions with many stakeholders about the industry.
One thing that Uganda can do is expand the value chain of oil in such a way that there are industries that ordinary people can engage in, for instance, the footwear industry that can be developed from the byproducts of oil refining.
That way, you enlarge the value chain and include many people. Also, the oil companies can help local farmers to rear things like chicken so that all the chicken that is consumed by thousands of oil workers is supplied by local people.
Uganda is currently crafting the revenue sharing and management model. Any lessons Uganda can learn from Nigeria?
As far as I know, all revenues go to the federal government of Nigeria, but in the new Petroleum Bill that has not yet been passed, there is a proposal to give 10 per cent of the profits back to the host communities through the Host Communities Fund.
I think, in such a business, the government should disengage from doing business with oil companies. The worst model of revenue sharing is a model that excludes the ordinary people because now people are wiser than they were 40 years ago.
There have been problems with compensations in Uganda and people getting evicted without compensations. Isn’t Uganda courting trouble?
First of all, we need to understand what the real compensation is. Compensation is not the value of the piece of land that you give up at today’s value. You must factor in its present cost value, the gains that the individual who owns the land would have made over fifty years or so and other factors and that is how compensation is supposed to be calculated.
Most of the oil exploration activities carried out in Nigeria is in the delta of River Niger. This delicate ecosystem, rich in flora and fauna has borne a myriad of undocumented oil spills from oil production, transport and storage. Consequently, the ecological and economic importance of the clean-up of this wetland cannot be exaggerated.
Contaminated soils world over are remediated using physical, chemical, thermal and biological processes. These processes can be carried out ex-situ or in-situ depending on the process and site specific characteristics. Bioremediation has become a good secondary treatment option for soils contaminated with oil following its application in 1989 after the Exxon Valdez spill (Bragg et al., 1994).
Three methods are used in bioremediation. They are bioaugumentation, in which microorganisms are added to an existing microbial population; phytoremediation being the use of plant-microorganisms to degrade inorganic and organic contaminants, and biostimulation, in which the degradation of pollutants is aided by the addition of organic or inorganic nutrients.
Phytoremediation is an environmental and aesthetics friendly, in situ solar powered remediation technique, which is cheaper than other conventional processes used in the clean-up of contaminated soils.
Plants remediate polluted soils/water through their ability to volatilse, degrade, stabilise and extract organic and inorganic contaminates. Although plants ability to degrade organic pollutants is less known in comparison with that of animals and bacteria, but their many endogenous genetic, biochemical and physiological properties has made it possible for plants to transform and mineralise a lot of complex organics such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) such as dioxins, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) like benzoapyrene, linear halogenated hydrocarbons such as trichloroethylene (TCE), both in water and soil environments (Meagher, R. B, 2000). Many of these organics are toxic, teratogenic and carcinogenic.
Grasses on the other hand have been used because of its extensive root system which breaks up the soil thereby encouraging the presence of soil oxygen which is needed by micro-organism. (Marques, M. et al., 2010; Muratova, A, Y. et al, 2008). Also studies have been carried out using phreatophytes such as willow and poplar for the remediation of soils contaminated with organics and inorganics (Vervaeke P. et al., 2002).
Merkl, N. et al., (2004), buttressed that phytoremediation success can be achieved in the tropics using indigenous plant species, as the temperature and humidity of this region favours plant growth and microorganism proliferation, despite this, accounts of phytoremediation in the tropics are scarce.
Having said these, phytoremediation is not a technique to be used in the remediation of soils heavily impacted by oil; rather it a process that can be used in combination with other remediation technologies especially after the process of biostimulation (the amendment of contaminated soil with inorganic or organic fertilizers). This remediation technique is a veritable tool for community driven remediation because it is a cheap, ubiquitous and readily available remediation technology, although more research need to be conducted on indigenous plant species that will be suitable for this.
However, this technique should be encouraged by relevant stakeholders especially in cases of certified remediated site where plant re-establishment is difficult, because the planting of grasses will form the initial plant community needed for plant succession to quickly take place on such sites, thereby speedily restoring the land to almost its original natural state.
Bragg, J.R., E.J. Prince, Harner, R.M. Atlas (1994), “Effectiveness of bioremediation of the Exxon Valdex oil spill”. Nature, 368: 413 – 418.
Frick, C. M., R. E. Farrell, and J. J. Germida (1999), Assessment of phytoremediation as an in-situ technique for cleaning oil-contaminated sites, Petroleum Technology Alliance of Canada, Calgary.
Marques, M., G.S. Rosa, C.R. Aguiar, S.M. Correia and E.M. Carvalho (2010), “Seedling emergence and biomass growth of oleaginous and other tropical species in oil contaminated soil”. Open Waste Management Journal, 3: 26-32.
Merkl, N., R. Schultze-Kraft and C. Infante (2004), “Phytoremediation in the tropics -the effect of crude oil on the growth of tropical plants”.Bioremediation Journal, 8(3-4):177–184.
Muratova, A. Y, T. V. Dmitrieva, L. V. Panchenko and O. V. Turkovskaya (2008), “Phytoremediation of oil-sludge–contaminated Soil”. International Journal of Phytoremediation, 10:486–502.
Vervaeke, P., S. Luyssaerta, J. Mertensa, E. Meersb, F. M. Tackb and N. Lusta(2003), “Phytoremediation prospects of willow stands on contaminated sediment: a field trial”. Environmental Pollution, 126: 275–282.
White, P. M. Jr., D. C. Wolf, G. J. Thoma and C. M. Reynolds (2006), “Phytoremediation of alkylated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in a crude oil-contaminated soil”.Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, 169: 207–220.
GASIN, in the course a desk research has identified some international standards being applied in the exploration, processing and distribution of natural gas. Some of the standards are among the basic requirements for the establishment of natural gas processing facilities while others are codes of practice that are applicable to the oil and gas industry. The Nigerian government, through the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) in 1991, has consulted a number of international standards, stepped them down and drafted general guidelines regarding environment safety in the course of oil and gas exploration. This national standard is called “Environmental Guidelines and Standards for Petroleum Industry in Nigeria (EGASPIN).” Thus, in addition to the international standards, the EGASPIN is a rich document that covers various environmental safety recommendations for the operating protocols in the petroleum industry in general. Unfortunately, it does not say much about gas, as such. These international standards include:
I. ASME B31.8 for Gas Transmission and Distribution Systems (ASME means American Society of Mechanical Engineers)
This code or standard was developed under procedures accredited as meeting the criteria for American National Standards and consists of many individually published sections, each an American National Standard.
The Code sets forth engineering requirements deemed necessary for the safe design and construction of pressure piping. To the greatest possible extent, the code requirements for design are stated in terms of basic design principles and formulas. These are supplemented as necessary with specific requirements to ensure uniform application of principles and to guide selection and application of piping elements. The code prohibits designs and practices known to be unsafe and contains warnings where caution, but not prohibition, is warranted.Although safety is the basic consideration, this factor alone will not necessarily govern the final specifications of any piping system.
It is this standard that states that when corrosive gas is transported, provisions shall be taken to protect the piping system from detrimental corrosion and that gas containing free water under the conditions at which it will be transported shall be assumed to be corrosive, unless proven to be noncorrosive by recognized tests or experience (ASME B31.8, Section 863.1).
“No pipeline, regardless of wall thickness, is impervious to failure; attempts to characterize thick-walled pipes as somehow invincible or better than thin-walled pipes appear to be incomplete efforts to deceive an uninformed government, public, or management team” (Accufacts Inc., 2005). A number of design issues can lead to pipeline ruptures just as in the case of San Bruno rupture which was caused by a poor longitudinal seam weld on a short pup that could not withstand ductile tear (high pressure) and pressure fluctuations (pressure cycling) (Accufacts Inc., 2012) .
ii. ISO 1400: Environmental Quality Management (ISO means International Standardization for Organizations)
ISO 14001 is the internationally recognized standard for the environmental management of businesses. It prescribes controls for those activities that have an effect on the environment. These include the use of natural resources, handling and treatment of waste, and energy consumption. Implementing an Environmental Management System is a systematic way to discover and control the effects a company has on the environment. Cost savings can be made through improved efficiency and productivity. These are achieved by detecting ways to minimize waste and dispose of it more effectively and by learning how to use energy more efficiently. It verifies compliance with current legislation and makes insurance cover more accessible.
iii. API Standard 2510 Design and Construction of LP Gas Installation at Marine and Pipeline Terminals, Natural Gas Processing Plants, Refineries, Petrochemical Plants and Tank Farms. (API means American Petroleum Institute)
This standard provides minimum requirements for the design and construction of installations for the storage and handling of lique?ed petroleum gas (LPG) at marine and pipeline terminals, natural gas processing plants, re?neries, petrochemical plants, and tank farms. The standard takes into consideration the specialized training and experience of operating personnel in the type of installation discussed. In certain instances, exception to standard practices are noted and alternative methods are described.
The Nigerian Gas Master Plan shows that natural gas will be transported both in gaseous phase and liquid phase as Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) (NNPC, 2007) . Thus, the handling of these products at production sources in Niger Delta is a critical issue.
iv. API Recommended Practices 520 and 521 for pressure-relieving and depressurizing systems.
This recommended practice applies to the sizing and selection of pressure relief devices used in refineries and related industries for equipment that has a maximum allowable working pressure of 15 psig (103 kPag) [psig: pound force per square inch gauge; kPag: kiloPascal gauge] or greater. The pressure relief devices covered in this recommended practice are intended to protect unfired pressure vessels and related equipment against overpressure from operating and fire contingencies.
Generally, natural gas pipelines have maximum allowable pressure and pressure-relieving systems are installed to absorb and reduce excess pressure. In our target communities, where pipelines run very close to homes, it is necessary that we understand the provisions of this standard in order to be able to assess and advocate for the necessary installations that will arrest pressure-related incongruities in natural gas processing and transmission. It is known that explosions that occur in a high-pressure pipeline are devastating. This is the case of the explosion that occurred in Carlsbad in 2000, where a high-pressure gas pipeline ruptured, exploded and led to the death of twelve (12) civilians (National Transportation Safety Board, 2002) . According to Accufacts Inc. (2005) , when reviewing any pipeline system, it is important to evaluate the downstream and upstream facilities to assess their potential to place the interconnecting pipeline system under high pressures that can result in high stress levels and cause anomalies in the pipe to fail. Any downstream facility design that can close or block in the pipeline, or that overemphasizes reliance on electronic safeties to prevent overpressure events, needs to be carefully scrutinized as the potential for such electronics to fail, when most needed, can be very high and the consequences severe.
v. National Fire Protection Association Standards No. 59A
This standard applies to the: facilities that liquefy natural gas; facilities that store, vaporize, transfer, and handle liquefied natural gas (LNG); the training of all personnel involved with LNG; the design, location, construction, maintenance, and operation of all LNG facilities.
From the blueprint of Nigeria gas master plan, there will be three (3) gas processing facilities to be located in the Niger Delta. GASIN, if properly trained, will exploit the knowledge of this standard, to advocate for installations that are in accordance with the NFPA standard during the implementation of the gas master plan, because, the best safety strategy is applied at the design and installation stage.
vi. Liquefied Petroleum Gas Safety Code of Safety Practice.
The industry benchmark for safe LP-Gas storage, handling, transportation, and use. This code applies to the storage, handling, transportation, and use of LP-Gas. Liquefied petroleum gases (LP-Gases), as defined in this code, are gases at normal room temperature and atmospheric pressure. They liquefy under moderate pressure and readily vaporize upon release of the pressure. It is this property that permits the transportation and storage of LP-Gases in concentrated liquid form, although they normally are used in vapor form.
The Nigerian GMP highlights domestic utilization of gas as one of the key ways to utilize the nation's gas resources. Also, the use of gas as a domestic fuel is one of the objectives of the national energy policy. Hence, a strong adherence to the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Safety Code of Safety Practice will reduce the risk associated with the domestic utilization of gas.
vii. Electrical Safety Code: Part 1 of the Institute of Petroleum (now Energy Institute) Model Code of Safe Practice
This Code is aimed at providing an overview of the particular issues related to the safe use of electrical equipment in the petroleum industry, specifically in areas where there is a possibility of occurrence of a flammable atmosphere. Guidance is given on the selection of equipment together with installation, inspection and maintenance practices. This Code is applicable to both onshore and offshore areas. It specifically excludes mines, areas where explosives are manufactured, stored or handled and areas subject to dusts.
Because natural gas is highly flammable, care should be taken, according to this standard in the use of electrical equipment to avoid ignition and explosion. In an area where a gas processing plant is situated near population as in Ebocha, following the dictates of this standard is critical for the gas companies.
viii. American National Standard Institute (ANSI) B31-3-Pressure Piping of Chemical Plant and Petroleum Refining Piping.
The ASME B31.1 / B31.3 Power and Process Piping Package prescribes the requirements for components, design, fabrication, assembly, erection, examination, inspection and testing of process and power piping. It includes ANSI/ASME B31.1-2012 and ASME B31.3-2010. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) established the B31 Pressure Piping Code Committees to promote safety in pressure piping design and construction through published engineering criteria. Numerous sections of the B31 Codes provide the necessary guidelines to analyze new or nontraditional products so that sound engineering judgments can be made regarding Code conformance.
ix. American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) – Boiler Pressure Vessel Code (Section 1)
The ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code (BPVC) is an American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) standard that provides rules for the design, fabrication, and inspection of boilers and pressure vessels. A pressure component designed and fabricated in accordance with this standard will have a long, useful service life, and one that ensures the protection of human life and property. Volunteers, who are nominated to its committees based on their technical expertise and on their ability to contribute to the writing, revising, interpreting, and administering of the document, write the BPVC.
x. API 550 Manuals of Refinery Instruments and Control Systems
This section discusses recommended practices for the installation of central hydraulic pressure systems that power hydraulic cylinders (actuators) to move valves, dampers, and similar types of equipment.
Successful instrumentation depends upon a workable arrangement which incorporates the simplest systems and devices that will satisfy specified requirements. Sufficient schedules, drawings, sketches, and other data should be provided to enable the constructor install the equipment in the desired manner. The various industry codes and standards, and laws and rulings of regulating bodies should be followed where applicable. For maximum plant personnel safety, it is recommended that transmission systems be employed to eliminate the piping of hydrocarbons, acids, and other hazardous or noxious materials to instruments in control rooms.
Nigeria has a huge natural gas reserve. In terms of proven reserves she is ranked 7th in the world with associated and non-associated gas reserves of 187 trillion standard cubic feet (tscf). Although geologists are of the view that the reserves can reach 600 tscf (Ige, 2008), this quantity can be feasible if companies make a conscious effort to explore for gas rather than finding gas in their search for oil as both are found in the same rock strata. As a result of this, most of the gas which could have been utilized for power, cooking fuel and industrial processes is flared. This makes gas flaring synonymous with the Nigerian oil and gas sector.
According to a publication by Oil Producing and Exporting Countries (OPEC), Nigeria is placed as the second highest gas flaring nation in the world behind Russia. The country has failed at several attempts to end gas flaring with the earliest being in 1969 when the then Head of State Gen. Yakubu Gowon ordered oil companies to end flaring in 1974. Till date, this hasn’t been possible. Although flare volumes has continued to decrease, dropping by over one-third between 2004 and 2010, the volume flared in 2010 stood at 15.2 billion cubic metres (bcm) which is 11 per cent of the world total with resultant huge economic losses. Recently, International Oil Companies (IOCs) stated that 2020 is the feasible date for gas flare out, is this attainable?
Oil companies justify continued flaring of gas on the grounds of limited number of appropriate reservoirs conducive for the re-injection/storage and economics; huge cost of developing major and inter-connecting network of gas pipelines; low technological and industrial base for energy consumption in the country; limited regional and international market; inadequate fiscal and gas pricing policies to encourage investment; and the difficult terrain of the Niger Delta which has hampered the gas recovery process (Omiyi, 2001).
Government have made effort to meet these challenges as highlighted by the IOCs. For instance, gas price has been increased significantly from $1 per mcf in 2010 to $3.30 per mcf (Onyekpere E. and Ofoegbu, I. D, 2015). Also there is extensive 5,000km gas pipeline system in southern Nigeria and planned new gas pipelines like the Trans-Nigeria Pipeline and Trans-Saharan pipeline, these new pipelines especially the Trans-Nigerian pipeline will supply gas to the commercial cities of Kano and Kaduna, in addition to the existing Escravos-Lagos pipelines which supplies gas to industrial complexes in Lagos and Ogun states thereby providing an industrial base that will utilise the gas as feedstock in an industrial process. The planned Trans-Saharan pipeline although still on the drawing board will bring our gas to new markets in Europe. Despite these efforts by government to provide the enabling environment for the utilisation of gas in our country, there is still gas flaring in the oil and gas fields of the Niger-Delta.
Coming on the heels of the COP21 climate conference in Paris, the onus lies on the Nigeria government to stop gas flaring because that is the country’s greatest contribution to greenhouse gases (GHGs) and subsequently climate change. This paper proposes some daring policy and technological initiatives that can be applied to curb gas flaring in Nigeria. The technological initiatives proposed are proven in other energy sectors and the author believes these technologies can be applied to oil and gas sector in a bid to stop gas flaring.
GAS FLARE OUT INITIATIVES
Enforcement of stringent penalties/fines at the cost of current gas price: Fines should be increased to the current international gas price to discourage companies from flaring. An attempt to increase fines was done on August 2011. The petroleum revenue special task force increased gas penalty fee from N10 to $3.50 per scf of gas flared, but oil companies have deliberately failed to pay these fines. Hence the payment of these fines has to be enforced to generate revenue for government. And as well as to deter oil and gas companies from flaring indiscriminately.
Non-issuance of new oil licenses or renewal of licenses; if the IOCs do not utilise/harness gas from their current oil block/fields
A review of the performance of oil and gas companies and how well they implemented their associated gas reinjection plans should be a major parameter for the renewal of oil licences and issuance of new ones.
Government incentives to IOCs to encourage the use of Best Available Technology (BAT) that will harness associated gas
The oil and gas industry like most high tech industries pose a lot of risk to the environment in their operations, therefore the industry uses cutting edge technology to reduce their environmental impact. However these industries fail to use these technologies when they operate in the developing countries. The Federal government of Nigeria must insist on the highest standards by providing some kind of incentive to encourage the use of BAT in oil and gas operations in Nigeria.
In exceptional circumstances where gas utilisation is not possible, the installation of gas cleaning systems that will clean the emission before release to the atmosphere: when associated gas (AG) is flared, gaseous emissions such as sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide, total organic carbon (TOC) etc. are released into the atmosphere. Proven flue gas cleaning systems such as selective non-catalytic reaction (SNCR), selective catalytic reaction (SCR) and wet and dry scrubbers should be integrated into the design of gas flare stacks to reduce the emission of these environmentally harmful gases.
Use of mobile gas turbine which can tolerate associated gas for onsite off grid power provision
Mobile gas turbines/generators have been used to generate electricity from landfill sites. These gas turbines tolerate various gas qualities. Its use in landfill gas mining is because it can tolerate the high moisture and CO2 content of this gas. As a result of the varied nature of the expected feedstock for these turbines, associated gas which is made up of various gases can be combusted and the energy is converted to power (megawatts). The drawback with this is the power grid where this power will be connected to as a result of the remoteness of some of these oil and gas fields. However a good off grid system can be designed to power host communities nearest the field as part of corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Installation of small power plants on-site
Small power plants are similar to mobile gas turbines/generators. The difference lies in the sophistication of the systems and it differs from regular power plants due to scale. In this system, gas from various fields in close proximity to each other are collected and processed at a centrally located gas field where the small power plant will be sited. This scenario needs government action and involvement in terms of policy and grid infrastructure.
These initiatives involve radical policy and technological changes on the part of government and the oil and gas companies. The ideas proposed in this article however good or impractical they may sound are not an end or solution to gas flaring in Nigeria nor should the ideas be thrown away; rather they are meant to open up discussion on the practicability of implementing these initiatives in Nigeria and possible technological issues that may arise while its being implemented.
Ige David, “Nigerian Gas Master Plan Investors Road Show 2008”
Omiyi Basil, (2001) “Shell Nigeria Corporate Strategy for Ending Gas Flaring,” Seminar on Gas Flaring and Poverty Alleviation, Oslo, 18-19 June, pp. 1-13.
Onyekpere, E. and Ofoegbu, I. D, (2015) Issues in Implementing the Nigerian Gas Master Plan. Centre for Social Justice, Abuja.
Gas flaring (GF) and venting represents one of those activities which have dire consequences for humans, the environment and the planet.GF emanates from various industries (e.g. gas processing plants, liquefied natural gas terminals, oil refineries, petrochemical plants), however in Nigeria is it is most especially from combustion of associated natural gas from crude oil extraction (Figure 1). Between 1995 and 2006, it was reported that annually a total of between 150 and 170 billion cubic metres (BCM) of associated gas was flared across the globe. The impact of this has been tremendous, especially across the Niger Delta resulting in extensive degradation of the environment which often leads to social uprisings. For example, studies have shown that there is retardation of crop growth, decreased yields. Furthermore, GF has also been linked to the pervasiveness of social miscreants and antisocial behaviours and increased rate of corrosion of Zinc roof in areas near gas flaring or sea aerosol (Ekpoh & Obia, 2010). The body of knowledge on the impact is extensive. Several administration have tried using various instrument of legislation to stop and discourage GF, however, despite all these GF has continued unabated.
Is there any other alternative to flaring of the associated gas from our oil and gas industry? The answer is a clear YES! Globally, there are a number of technologies available for utilisation of associated gas instead of flaring. Gas-To-Liquid (GTL) and Natural gas hydrate are some of the technologies currently popular. Several works have examine the adequacy, efficiency and cost-benefit analyses of GTL (Bao, El-Halwagi, & Elbashir, 2010; Chedid, Kobrosly, & Ghajar, 2007; Onwukwe Stanley, 2009; Reddy Keshav & Basu, 2007). Natural gas hydrate provides an opportunity for natural gas or associated gas to be transported efficiently to points of potential utilisation. Despite the fact that GTL is a proven technology, and can produce high quality fuels and chemical feedstock products (e.g. Naphtha, Diesel, Jet fuel, Kerosene, Wax and Lube), the technology has not been fully harnessed in Nigeria. Currently there is only one project in this respect in Nigeria, theEscravos GTL plant in Escravos with a capacity of about 33,000 barrels per day.
Recently, some countries have been very successful in converting associated gas that would have been flared into power. On the M’Boundi oil field in the Republic of Congo, associated gas feeds two power plants through a 350MW gas to power project and supplies electricity to over 300,000 people (Yesyrkenov, 2012). Rosneft recently was received an award for reducing gas flaring at it’sKomsomolskoye oil field. Rosneft installed compression station to treat and produce clean natural gas (Yesyrkenov, 2012). This project was implemented under the Joint Implementation Project – one of the mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol. A unique example can be seen in the Kuwait Oil Company. The company managed to utilise almost 99% of the associated gas produced, with significant economic (increasing electricity production to meet demands and services gas demand) and environmental benefit(World Bank, 2014).
MiniGTL technologies are one of the most promising in addressing the utilisation of gas flaring. According to Fleisch (2012), there are technologies that are applicable to flares ranging from very small (below 0.5MMscfd) to large flares (10MMscfd and above) as well as for onshore and offshore applications. There has been a growing number of options in technologies and companies offering solutions to potential customers burdened by gas flaring problems or marginal fields. This has significantly increased the financial attractiveness of MiniGTL via the reduction of the capital expenditure(Fleisch, 2014).
The work of Fleisch (2014) examined several companies and their MiniGTL technology offerings. The work carried out comparisons based on plant scale applicability, base plant parameters, risk and commercial readiness of these companies and their technologies. The work aim at providing support for GGFR members in the identification of viable, and low risk option for reducing gas flaring.
According to the World Bank (2004)there are four viable options for the utilisation of associated gas:
a. Production of power at the location for transmission to existing power grid
b. Power production on location for electrification of nearby communities
c. Supplying large gas consumers (heat and power plants) via pipelines
d. Conversion to liquefied petroleum gas, solely or combined with other mean of use
Options (a) and (c) are suitable for medium-scale utilisation while options (b) and (d) are suitablefor small scale utilisation. Furthermore, they concluded that options (a) and (b) are the most relevant (with a possibility of combining them with option (d)) for many countries in the tropics and subtropics due to their peculiar circumstances. Further findings by the World Bank (2004) shows that subsidies are not essential in order to achieve economic and financial viability of such endeavour. However, if markets are far away or gas deposits are small or there are price distortion due to domestic fuel subsidies, there may be a consideration for subsidies to stimulate the development of associated gas utilization investments. Their comparison also shows that there is little economic difference between transporting gas via pipeline to existing power plant and generating power on location then transmitting via power lines to load centres.
Using a benchmark of about 15MMscfd gas feed rate, foot print ranges between approximately 1 acre and 5 acres for MiniGTL process unit. For this, production volume of between 1300 and 1500 barrel per day (bdp) can be expected. It must be noted that the smaller the plant the lower the process efficiency. Capital expenditure (Capex) stands at around $100,000 daily barrel capacity (dbc) with cost likely to be higher for smaller sized plant. However, some companies have demonstrated that it is possible to build plant for about $100,000/dbc(Fleisch, 2014). While operating expenditure (Opex) was estimated to around $20 per barrel, the company INFRA claimed that their technology is able to significantly lower the Opex by fourfold. Energy efficiency ranges between 50% and 65%, while carbon efficiency ranges between 60% and 90%.
OBERON, GREYROCK, CompactGTL, VELOCYS, Marcellus GTL and GASTECHNO have significantly lower over risk and a shorter time to commercialisation of their technologies. While OBERON, GREYROCK, CompactGTL and VELOCYS are the leaders in the field with lower risk and higher readiness for commercialisation of their technologies. These four have are well managed and possess strong financial backers as well as a solid financial base proven technologies and experienced staffs (Fleisch, 2014). With low Capex for application below 1MMscfd, GasTechno, Proton Ventures and R3Sciences have worthy technologies however with some technology risk.
With all this options and technology available, some of the questions that comes to mind includes:
a. How do we identify viable locations?
b. Which options are the most viable?
c. How do we get investors into this area?
The opportunities are tremendous, if only we are ready to be innovative and challenge the status quo. Firstly using advances in Geographical Information Science and Remote Sensing we can assess viability of different flare sites. With this assessment we can also be able to identify suitable options for each sites. One option that can be exploited in dealing with the economic side of the implementation would be to use some of the mechanism within the Kyoto Protocol. If there is a will there is always a way!
Figure 1: Spatial Distribution of gas flaring recorded by VIIRS measurement between 2013 and 2014
Source: Authors' representation and Google map imageries
Lanre Lawal PhD FRGS FHEA MIEnvSc MifL
Bao, B., El-Halwagi, M. M., & Elbashir, N. O. (2010). Simulation, integration, and economic analysis of gas-to-liquid processes. Fuel Processing Technology, 91(7), 703-713. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fuproc.2010.02.001
Chedid, R., Kobrosly, M., & Ghajar, R. (2007). The potential of gas-to-liquid technology in the energy market: The case of Qatar. Energy Policy, 35(10), 4799-4811. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2007.03.017
Onwukwe Stanley, I. (2009). Gas-to-Liquid technology: Prospect for natural gas utilization in Nigeria. Journal of Natural Gas Science and Engineering, 1(6), 190-194. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jngse.2009.12.001
World Bank. (2014, 08/25/2014). Gas utlization in Kuwait reaps economic and environmental benefits. Retrieved 6th of May, 2015, from http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2014/08/25/gas-utilization-in-kuwait-reaps-economic-and-environmental-benefits
Yesyrkenov, Y. (2012, 10/25/2012). Rosneft wins award for gas flaring reduction efforts in Russia. Retrieved 6th of May, 2015, from http://blogs.worldbank.org/energy/gas-flaring-reduction-makes-life-better-for-the-people-of-gubkinskiy
Wikipedia defines Communications Management as the systematic planning, implementing, monitoring, and revisioning of all the channels of communication within an organization, and between organizations; it also includes the organization and dissemination of new communication directives connected with an organization, network, or communications technology. It further posits that the aspects of communications management include developing corporate communication strategy, designing internal and external communications directives, and managing the flow of information.
Viewing communication from this comprehensive posture means that it is an essential element to successful management of community. While the information needs of different peer group may differ, community leaders must holistically begin to clearly articulate and meet the information needs of these different people in the community. There is need to know when information can be relayed and in what form to different groups of persons. It is important to sieve the facts, determine the choice of words and present in a simple language. Because of its importance, community leaders must ensure that verifiable facts are conspicuously displayed in any form they choose to transmit information to the people. It is also necessary to define who authorises transmission of information and provide feedback channels to community management.
Apart from the conventional town crier, it has been observed that some communities have adopted the use of notice boards to strengthen communication with other members of the community, while these efforts are plausible; there is urgent need to improve the timeliness, quality and frequency of information passage to diffuse rumour, speculations, tension and conflicts that are often triggered by lack of information.
Since all peer groups in the community have a representative structure at their levels such as Council of Chiefs, Community Development Committee, Women forum and youths; it is necessary for community leaders to consider disseminating information and also getting feedback through these structures before a community town hall meeting that embraces participants across the structures. While most rural communities' leadership are gender blind due to cultural dictates, there is the need to reassess the loses communities have incurred as a result of unheard voices of a particular gender.
The roles and perception of women and men may differ on a particular issue or development concern; so, the interests of both groups have to be recognised and reassured to arouse their active participation towards achieving community peace. From the beginning, community leaders should effectively communicate.
The Niger Delta is the hub of oil and gas industry in the country, and consequently has been greeted with serious environmental impacts and abuses in the course of the resource exploitation. Thanks to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Act that mandates investors to carry out an environmental assessment aimed at predicting potential impacts associated with proposed projects to aid the governing authorities in decision-making as to whether or not to approve projects.
Hence, EIAs are planning tools that are generally accepted as integral components of sound decision-making in developmental projects including those of oil and gas. The principal objective of an EIA is to predict and address potential environmental concerns at an early stage of projects planning and design. In most cases, EIAs of oil and gas projects are approved as the industry remains the major driver of Nigerian economy. Every EIA report should have an environmental management plan so long as potential impacts exist.
An Environmental Management Plan (EMP) is a component of the EIA report that details how identified impacts are to be monitored, mitigated and managed during projects life span. It is suggested on the basis of the identified impacts in the EIA. Hence, EIA and EMP assist planners and regulatory authorities in the decision-making process by identifying the key impacts/issues and formulating mitigation measures.
These mitigation measures are the practices that ensure the safety and sustainability of the environment in the course of carrying out proposed projects. EMP comprehensively covers all aspects of the natural and human environment so that adverse impacts of projects, if any, are taken care of so that projects do not create any hazard or negatively affect the quality of life for generations in and around the host communities.
Among the challenges facing environmental management amidst oil and gas exploitation in the Niger Delta are inappropriate mitigation measures and lack of strict enforcement of the implementation of such measures by relevant government regulatory agencies. A critical look at the extent of environmental degradation in the Niger Delta clearly shows that 'something is wrong somewhere.' It is true that some of the oil and gas facilities were constructed before the EIA Act was passed in Nigeria, but the act also makes provision for Environmental Effects Evaluation (EEE) for such ongoing projects so as to enable operators evaluate and proffer remedial measures for any associated impacts.
To make progress in the Niger Delta case, it is imperative that issues like regulatory requirements, EIA process and methodology including baseline studies, identification of key issues and consideration of alternatives, impact analysis and remedial measures be done in an effective, transparent and systematic manner with stakeholders and local people openly involved where necessary. Impact monitoring and mitigation plans have to be followed as stated in EIA reports and strictly supervised by regulators.
A number of civil society organization like GASIN and the National Coalition on Gas Flaring and Oil Spills in the Niger Delta (NACGOND) have taken bold steps towards questioning EIA processes in Nigeria and advocating for transparent and effective environmental management in the Niger Delta, seeing the visible impacts pressing upon many local and helpless host communities.
GASIN, has, in the last three years, trained many local people on EIA, Health Safety and Environment (HSE), Joint Investigation Visits (JIV) and other related topics in an effort to enhance the capacity of host communities and broaden their understanding of the various environmental issues accompanying resource exploitation activities going on around them and for the overall safety of the Niger Delta at large. More of this gesture of concern is encouraged and recommended for other CSOs and agencies that are touched by the severity of the degradation in the Niger Delta environments.
In some communities, both surface water bodies and aquifers are polluted, with the atmosphere constantly polluted by combustion products from gas flaring and volatile organic compounds arising from oil spill sites. Human beings and animals living in those areas are constantly exposed to toxic substances, some of which are carcinogens. Crops also bio-accumulate and bio-concentrate many of the pollutants from their surroundings. Also, many communities hosting giant gas facilities do not have any emergency evacuation plans in place or muster points in case of accidents, explosions or related physical hazards.
While no one prays for accidents to happen, operators and the Nigerian government should not wait until it becomes too late before giving adequate attention to EMP included in EIAs and to the plight of the local people living in the midst of oil wells, flow stations, manifolds, gas plants, natural gas processing facilities, gas flares, pipelines, etc. Had the EIAs and EEEs been properly done, many of the impacts suffered presently in the Niger Delta would have been identified and addressed using appropriate EMPs, because a good EMP should have a long term perspective and make futuristic projections considering the developmental, expansion, decommissioning activities likely to take place in the project.
It is not yet late to rise to the demands of an effective environmental management system in the Niger Delta. The lingering environmental issues would definitely be addressed once high-level commitments to best practices are employed in the course of oil and gas exploitation. Agree with me that urgent attention is needed in the Niger Delta before issues escalate beyond control and remedy as they already threaten in some areas.
Over the years, a number of efforts are being made by civil societies in addressing the lingering environmental degradation in the Niger Delta. Among other impacts of oil and gas exploitation in the area, the impacts on environment are still very alarming, especially in the local communities that host oil and gas facilities. Most of the operations of the companies are not in regulated agreements with international standards. As a result, a number of facilities have become old, making accidents very imminent.
Awareness on health, safety and Environmental impacts accompanying oil and gas operations in the host communities have been created by a number of civil society organizations in the Niger Delta. Most, if not all of the awareness creation have been focused on adults and youths who have already graduated from high/secondary schools. Children in the secondary schools have not been extensively covered in the awareness. The children at this age group have a great influence on the communities. Most of them go to farms with their parents, and are equally impacted by pollutions the same way the adults are.
Recognizing the need to involve students, GASIN launched a school club called Gas Alert Club in four (4) secondary schools, as part of a project, Gas Alert System, which was funded by Cordaid. The schools are Community Secondary School Obrikom, Community Secondary School Mgbede, Egbema Grammar School Okwuizi and Community Secondary School Aggah. The initiative has not only been applauded by the Post-Primary School Management Board, regulatory agencies and community members but has been seen as a ground-breaking initiative that will ensure awareness is effectively sustained at the community levels.
Information dissemination is at its peak when it spreads bottom-up the communities, i.e. from the secondary schools students to parents and relations. Many intellectuals have seen the initiative as a catch-them-young campaign. For instance, third-party interference with facilities can be addressed by targeting awareness to secondary school students, some of whom will graduate from school and become adult members of the communities. Stakeholders, including the government regulatory agencies, have recommended expansion of the club to as many schools as possible and even to universities.
Due to funding constraints, GASIN could only support four (4) schools in the formation and running of this club. The club features include trainings, seminars, workshops, quiz and essay competitions and other presentations. The objectives of the club it to sensitize children on environmental, health and other social issues associated with oil and gas exploration, but since GASIN is focused on gas, we pay much attention to issues of gas exploitation. The four clubs, so far, have been trained using resource persons drawn from both GASIN and regulatory agencies. Quiz competitions, essay competitions, presentations, etc have been organized for the clubs.
The children have remained excited and committed towards club activities while deriving huge capacity building benefits from the events and activities of the club. School heads have equally remained thankful and collaborative in an effort to sensitize students.