By Hugo Odiogor, odiogor
Against the background of global anger over the inability of BP to contain the spillage of thousand tons of oil into the Mexican gulf, Shell Petroleum Development Corporation and Chevron Oil have been outlining their corporate policies to deal with the challenges of climate change by reducing the flaring of the of associated gas from oil fields in the oil bearing region of Nigeria

• A gas flare site in Niger Delta

Friends of the Earth a broad coalition of environment activists has have raised fresh concerns on the role of oil majors in gas flaring in the Niger Delta and contributing to emission of methane gas into the atmosphere.

Friends of the Earth had accused the oil majors of placing profit above the health and economic well being of its host communities   in the Niger Delta region where gas flaring is carried out unmindful of the people and their environment. The environment group in its latest report averred that Shell which is a major stakeholder in Nigeria’s oil industry has been lagging behind in dealing with one of the world’s detrimental impact of oil companies in their host communities.

But Shell on its part said “in the past seven years it reduced flaring by a third and diverted the associated gas to gas powered power stations and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) export terminals”. Shell insists that progress of halting gas flaring can be seen in the Gbaran-Ubie integrated Oil and gas project in Yenagoa local government area of Bayelsa state.

The Gbaran-Ubie project was started in 2005 as one of the largest oil and gas project in Nigeria and has contributed in no small measure to shell’s commitment to reducing gas flaring. It was also designed to deliver gas to the NLND and  gas power

The Project Manager Mr. Okechukwu Elechi said the project scope covers 15 gas stations and 18 oil wells, with Central Processing Facility and capacity to process 1 billion standard cubic of gas per day and 120,000 barrels of oil per day.

There is a network of 300km inter field  and 56km gas export. The Gbaran-Ubie project  is built to supply gas to the NIPP PlantWhen fully operational the peoject will capture most of the gas that is currently burnt by shell at Kolo creeks and Etelebu flow stations. Elechi told Vanguard that the official launch of the project is in the works and it has been phased into three stages. Between 9 to 12 months.

Officials of Shell are at odds to explain their continued flaring of gas at a time when climate change has become a global issue. But for more than two decades the company has continued to burn methane gas into the atmosphere, when it knew that methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and a valuable resource.

Critics of Shell’s operations in Nigeria argue that while the company invested millions in the technology to extract oil from remote places, it did not invest in technology to pipe the associated gas that comes with extraction. Friends of the Earth, said although they may be correct to cite poor government funding and security situations in the Niger Delta, but “there is no commitment on the part of Shell to eradicate the remaining two thirds of the flare sites”.

On its part, Chevron one of the major oil companies in Nigeria has set a 2012 to end its flaring of gas in its operations in Nigeria.  This will entail stoppage of flaring all associated gas onshore and offshore gases from the company’s western operations. The Director of NNPC/ Chevron joint venture Mr. Supo Shadiya, disclosed this in Lagos at the 20th anniversary of Lekki Conservation Centre which is the initiative of Nigerian Conservation Foundation.

According to Mr.  Shadiya, the expected commissioning of the Escravos project 3 will enable the company to significantly reduce the amount of gas flare from its operations. This will be complimented by another plant called the Escravos Gas Project phase 3D.

Chevron pioneered gas development in Nigeria with the commissioning of its Escravos plant in 1997, from where it processed associated gas from its operational base in Niger Delta.

The second plant was commissioned in 2000 and it was believed to have the capacity to end the flaring of gas from its operation.

Mr. Shadiya said his company is committed ending gas flaring in Nigeria. According to him the communal crises that erupted in 2003 resulted in massive vandalisation of its Escravos facilities.

The global environment group said “closing down the flares will take out one of the most visible signs of the detrimental presence of oil companies in the Delta. This step could be the start of more sustainable relations between the Niger-Delta communities and the oil companies”.

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