Nigeria is a study at odds. It has the largest proven gas reserves in Africa but faces a significant challenge in providing access to gas for majority of its citizens and businesses. It also occupies an unenviable position as one of the top seven gas-flaring countries in the world, according to the World Bank.
Unfortunately, the reality is grim. Oil-producing companies burn millions of cubic litres of natural gas during oil production. They use a fancy term, gas flares, to describe it. However, this does not change the fact that the action is an obvious waste of resources. It also has a negative impact on the environment, human health, and gas costs. Over the past two years, the Nigerian government has attempted to reduce gas flaring, increase gas use, and increase revenue, all with mixed success.
To underscore the federal government's commitment to promoting the domestic use of gas as a primary energy source among Nigerians, President Muhammadu Buhari has proclaimed the "Gas Decade" (January 1, 2021, to December 31, 2030). An integral part of the process is the development of gas infrastructure, with the construction of the 614 km long Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano gas pipeline being the key starting point.
The goal is simple: increase domestic use of LPG and CNG, commercialize gas flares, develop industrial gas markets, and increase gas-to-electricity conversion. Related policies already in the works include the National Gas Expansion Program and the Autogas Policy.
However, experts argue that despite government efforts to increase the distribution of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), also known as cooking gas, many Nigerians still rely on firewood and charcoal for cooking, damaging the environment and the environment's effects on the climate.
Well, one of the main reasons for this is the lack of infrastructure and LPG distribution networks. Many areas of the country do not have access to gas lines, making it difficult for residents to get gas for cooking. In addition, the cost of LPG is prohibitively high for low-income households, which make up most of the population. Figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) show how deep poverty runs: 63 per cent of the people living in Nigeria (133 million people) are multidimensionally poor.
Global data reports that Nigeria loses up to $82 billion a year worldwide by flaring, rather than using gas for power generation or other domestic purposes. Other countries in this group are Algeria, Angola, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Malaysia, Mexico, Russia, the USA, and Venezuela. They accounted for more than 87% of all gas flared in 2020.
Independent sources show that Nigeria flared an average of 11.1m3/bbl gas in 2021. The problem with this is that Nigeria’s Gas Flare Commercialization Program (NGFCP), which seeks to curb crime, has loopholes with low and poorly enforced penalties. It needs to be tightened and strengthened to be most effective.
According to Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) Commission (CCE) Chief Executive Officer Gbenga Komolafe, an engineer, Nigeria had 208.62 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of gas reserves as of January 2022. However, the development of gas is still relatively small. The price is still up in the sky for many potential users. There is currently concern that as the cost of cooking gas rises, the use of LPG in Nigerian households may decline. It remains to be seen how this will affect the achievement of the goals of the “Decade of Gas”.
There are several steps the government can take to improve access to cooking gas for Nigerians. Here are five things government can do to improve access to natural gas:
First, the government needs to invest in the construction of pipelines and distribution networks to reach residential and commercial areas and improve access to LPG. Second, although the country has significant natural gas reserves, the lack of investment in this sector has resulted in low LPG production. It is time the government encouraged investment in this sector to increase national production and thus curb LPG imports.
Also, to demonstrate citizens' determination to improve gas consumption, the
government may consider subsidizing LPG to make it more affordable for low-income
households. This makes it more accessible to those who currently cannot afford it. With reports suggesting that Nigerians are
unaware of the benefits of using LPG as a cooking fuel, the government may launch a campaign
to educate citizens about the benefits of LPG and how to use it safely.
Finally, the government needs to create an enabling environment to encourage private sector participation and investment in the LPG industry. This will increase LPG availability and potentially contribute to price reductions.
By implementing these measures, Nigeria can truly improve access to cooking gas for most of its citizens and reduce the country's reliance on firewood and charcoal. This will not only improve citizens' quality of life but also help the environment by reducing deforestation and air pollution from burning wood.
Culled from The Guardian on The Decade of Gas