This week provided a quite shocking reminder of how poorly Nigeria’s gas resources are being utilized. In a country where its gas reserves outstrip higher profile oil resources by a considerable margin there has been an assumption for almost two decades that gas will be at the forefront of power generation. Yet in the last month it has again failed to provide adequate gas to Ghana via the World Bank backed West Africa Gas pipeline and thereby damaging its neighbours power generation.
Meanwhile in Nigeria, aside from damage to pipelines gas continues to be flared both onshore and offshore. Levels of flaring are confused by the frequent opening and closing of oil production with which flares are associated. However what is clear is that there is a considerable distance between the repeated promise “to end flaring” and the present state of play.
Because of its power NERC, the electricity regulatory commission is the latest to enter the fray on the complicated systemic failures that perpetuate flaring and the major gap between power generation capacity and actual delivery. SDN is assisting NERC in mapping the current state of flares using methods developed for documenting oil spills for the oil spill agency NOSDRA.
The data is vital to a reset in policy but political attention and commitment is also crucial. Failure to address shortcomings in the gas sector is already threatening the viability of newly privatized power companies. Furthermore, a refusal or inability to deal with the critical issues and conflict drivers in the Niger Delta would probably continue to affect the reliability of gas supply from the Niger Delta region. A situation in which the gas infrastructure could be tampered with or vandalised by disgruntled and impoverished local community youths does not bode well for a dependable and stable supply of gas for power generation. It is also at the heart of whether the defining pledge of the current administration to improve power supply by 2015 is achieved.