Ending Gas Flaring, Building Mini Refineries

There are two oily stories that should catch our attention. One is about designing and fabrication of a refinery at a Nigerian university and the second one is about new dates for ending gas flaring in Nigeria.

First is the news that the Department of Chemical engineering at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria has built a mini refinery that can “produce relatively small quantity of petroleum products.” The relatively small quantity this prototype handles is given as one barrel of crude oil per day. This information was shared at a press briefing on the 38th convocation of the university.

Biafra Refined Crude

It would be interesting to place this breakthrough alongside the bush refineries in the Niger Delta that have been in the business of refining crude oil and supplying a variety of products to consumers in the region. We do not have details of the mini-refinery built at ABU. It would be good to know if any engineering departments in our universities have done studies of the bush refineries to see how the technologies adopted in the illegal operations could be adopted, upgraded and used to meet the energy gaps of the nation. So far the engagement with bush refineries has been by the Joint Military Task Force (JTF) and their methodology has been to bomb or burn the refineries.

The fabrication of a mini crude oil refinery at the ABU would be significant or novel if the technology is different from what has been in operation in the world for over one hundred years. Just as anyone can ferment fruits (and grains) to obtain alcohol from them, the folks in the creeks and the scientists in then Biafra had the means of refining crude that could be studied and improved on.  A commentator writing in Sahara Reporters once said, “The most damning of Nigerian failures for now is the knowledge that while the defunct Biafra Republic could refine fuel some forty years ago the triumphant old country cannot refine enough fuel for its local consumption today. It’s a shame that cries to the high heavens.”

One recollects how some years ago a dispute broke out between scientists at a Nigerian university over who among them was the first to extract alcohol from pineapple and some other local fruits. The point is that the entire dispute was nothing more than a bad joke. Hopefully, this news about refining crude is not.

To Flare or Not to Flare

energy-top20flaringcountries-780x505Chart: World bank

The second item should raise our antenna is about when the ongoing routine flaring of associated gas would end in Nigeria.  For a period of time, successive governments kept shifting the deadline for ending gas flaring from year to year. During the almost one decade of debates on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) nothing was said about when gas flaring would end. A specific bill on gas flaring died without a whimper. The flames roared on while governments stayed mute.

The “new” Petroleum Industry Governance & Institutional Framework Bill (PIG-IFB or PI(GIF)B?) that is in the works is totally silent about when gas flaring would end, and is not concerned with communities or environmental issues. It even makes a passing reference to fracking as one of the things that occurs in the upstream sector of the petroleum industry signifying that the oil industry in Nigeria may be getting set to embark on fracking, an extreme form of extraction. Is the new Bill attempting to sidestep the concerns of suffering communities that the old PIB tried to address and how many PIBs should we expect from the present administration?

If the big polluters are staying off commitment to end gas flaring even by 2030, what should we say is the basis for oilfield communities to hope that they would soon be able to breath fresh air once again?

Okay, we are now told that gas flaring would end between 2018 and 2020. This was disclosed by the Group General Manager, Nigerian Petroleum Investment and Management Services (NAPIMS), Dafe Sajebor and the Managing Director of National Petroleum Development Corporation (NPDC), Sadler Mai-Bornu at a meeting with the Senate panel investigating the activities of oil and gas agencies in the country. A bit of news from the blue!

The World Bank plans to see zero routine gas flaring by 2030 and governments that endorse this initiative are expected to provide legal, regulatory, investment, and operating environment that is conducive to upstream business while ensuring that non-flaring of associated gas is in-built in all production plans. It is curious that the proposed PIG-IFB or PI(GIF)B does not say anything about halting routine gas flaring or even about the penalty for the heinous offence.

Obviously more information needs to be placed in the public realm on how the government plans to achieve zero routine gas flaring by 2018-2020. What plans do oil companies like Chevron, Shell, Total and ExxonMobil have to stop the routine flaring of associated gas in the Niger Delta? The biggest gas flaring company in Nigeria is Chevron. Nigeria and Chevron are not among the 45 countries and companies that endorsed the World Bank plan going by the list on the bank’s website. Neither is climate denier ExxonMobil on that roster. Angola, Cameroon, Republic of Congo and Gabon are the only African countries to have endorsed the plan.

If the big polluters are staying off commitment to end gas flaring even by 2030, what should we say is the basis for oilfield communities to hope that they would soon be able to breath fresh air once again?

 

 

 

 

 

Eco-Instigator #10

E-I 10 CoverAs is the tradition of HOMEF, Eco-Instigator #10 was issued at close of December 2015 in order to bring you some comments from the Conference of Parties (COP) of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Needless to say that we were at COP21 and came away with a conclusion that the poor and the vulnerable were once more sacrificed in order to let polluters keep polluting. Climate inaction promoting carbon markets were hoisted as totems to appease the climate gods – the fossil fuel industry and their political partners.

This is a teaser from this collector’s edition, the HOME RUN, or editor’s note. The full magazine comes online at HOMEF’s website. The cover image, by the revolutionary artist, Angie Vanessita, is from Oilwatch International’s call for the creation of Annex 0 nations.

HOME RUN

2015 has been quite a run. Crowning it with the Conference of Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) wrapped up the year with a rather sour taste. The gathering in Paris this December was decidedly shrouded in a thick fog of the dread of terror attacks. Some people thought the unfortunate terror attacks in Paris just two weeks before the global gathering provided the cover for official denial of space for mass mobilisations against climate inaction.

In this edition we bring you articles and opinions on COP21. Mainstream media have been awash with reports that COP21 was historic and that the world is on track to tackle global warming. We think it was another missed opportunity as it actually entrenched the regime of voluntarism that permits polluters to keep polluting, open up pathways for untested technologies, avoid providing new climate finance and lock the planet on a burning grate.

There were solemn spiritual moments, moments of awe at the rapacious destructive capacities of humanity and many moments of tears as these destructions, including murders, were painted in words and pictures.

COP21 provided a robust space for civil society mobilisations and actions. On the streets, the human chain was the strategy for actions on 29 November. The mass mobilisations of 12 December were endorsed by the French government at the last minute. Plans for mass civil disobedience had gone ahead and activists were ready to face the consequences if the protests were disallowed. Statements from the streets clearly showed that the COP had missed the mark.

The International Rights of Nature Tribunal was constituted and sat for two days in the Maison des Metallos, Paris. Experts, victims, prosecutors and judges presented or listened to cases of crimes against Mother Earth and at the end judgements were passed. There were solemn spiritual moments, moments of awe at the rapacious destructive capacities of humanity and many moments of tears as these destructions, including murders, were painted in words and pictures. We bring you a special report of the sitting of the Tribunal.

Oilwatch International sent a powerful call to the COP to create an Annex Zero group of nations, sub-nations and territories of peoples taking real climate caution by keeping fossils under the ground. No REDD in Africa Network issued a powerful briefing titled STOPPING THE CONTINENT GRAB and the REDD-ification of Africa. Grab a copy!

The Eco-Instigator team and all of us at HOMEF thank you for your support and solidarity throughout the year. We look forward to your continued support in the year(s) ahead. To stay updated with activities at HOMEF, sign up for our monthly eco-bulletin by sending an email to home@homef.org.

Whatever you do in the coming year, take care to ensure you stand for the rights of Mother Earth and in solidarity with all peoples.

Until victory!

Nnimmo

Who Blows UP Niger Delta Pipelines? (Explosive Oil fields of the Niger Delta)

images

Recent bombings of oil pipelines in the Niger Delta again raise the spectre of escalation of conflicts in the region. While we cannot say the reasons for the incidents, it does appear to be calculated acts of sabotage rather than mere vandalism. In cases of vandalism the motive routinely is the stealing of crude oil or refined petroleum products. Where pipelines are bombed in the manner the current incidents have been reported, the signal is that these are political actions. However, no one has claimed responsibility. That is against the grain.

It should be noted that political actions do not have to be partisan in nature as they can be carried out by persons or groups that are simply disenchanted with existing political system. They could also be orchestrated by persons or groups whose vested interests are threatened. If these are agreed as possibilities, we should be able to come to the conclusion that the recent bombings may not necessarily be the hand work of militants. Fishing for culprits would require extra-wide nets.

Militancy in the Niger Delta arose as a result of accrued disenchantment with both the government and the transnational corporations over minimal expectations from the local population. The fact oil being so alluring cannot be denied. It always offers communities dreams and hopes of social services, employment, infrastructural improvements and dramatic societal transformation. What is offered in reality has routinely been environmental degradation, disruption of social structures, corruption, disease and death.

Sadly, communities in countries where crude oil is discovered are still being offered the same promises that the resource scarcely delivers. And as sure as fire burns, the hopes and promises are bound to be dashed. And then the conflicts start.

Oil theft, bush refineries and related businesses operate at an industrial scale in the Niger Delta. Unfortunately. When poorly maintained facilities are added to the mix, the result is extremely toxic and the consequences are well documented. Responses have often reinforced the crises, rather than mitigate them.

All these avoidable attacks on communities were said to be legitimate ways of smoking out militants from their hideouts in the communities. It is not clear how many militants were captured through those punishing assaults on communities.

What has been the response to the recent bombing of pipelines including those in the Gbaramatu area of Delta State? Predictably the response has been heavy militarisation of the area. The question is, to what extent can militarisation protect the over 7000 kilometres of pipelines in the Niger Delta. We hope the reign of the gunboats in the Niger Delta will not lead to a replay of the levelling of communities that was virtually routine a few years ago.

Looking back, we recall that in 1999 attacks at Odi cut down 2,483 persons, while another heavy handed attack occurred at Odioma in 2005. In May 2009 the military response to militancy saw the massive destruction of Gbaramatu community. In December 2010 there was a replay of the same scenario at Ayakoromo, where at least 20 persons were killed.

All these avoidable attacks on communities were said to be legitimate ways of smoking out militants from their hideouts in the communities. It is not clear how many militants were captured through those punishing assaults on communities.

Government should ensure that the current patrolling of the creeks of the Niger Delta do not lead to attacks on communities. Where individuals offend the law, such individuals should face the law. Whole communities should never be punished for the sins of one person or groups of persons. Military actions in fragile communities only entrench miseries and further ecological tragedies.

Militancy based on the platform of political (non-partisan) agitation requires deep interrogations. Often, such conflicts require political solutions. Some of us were surprised at the success of the amnesty programme especially when seen that the programme was in part a panic measure as pipelines were erupting and oil production and related revenues were dwindling.

More than the cash pay-outs, it must be the other actions, including education and skills acquisition that did the trick. Despite the success of the amnesty programme and the militarization of the Niger Delta we cannot say that sustainable peace has been constructed in the region. We can understand why some persons are perplexed that despite the heavy investment in infrastructural projects disenchantment is still endemic in the region. That is why the petroleum economy is a negative economy – whether the price of crude is as high as gas flare stacks or as low as the bottom of the barrels.

Much more than patrolling the creeks and cowering innocent citizens to raise their hands in surrender to military might when then pass the ubiquitous checkpoints wherever pipelines crossed the creeks. There must be ways or rebuilding dignity among our peoples. Respect. We have to rebuild our brotherhood and sisterhood with one another and restore the motherhood of the earth. We need conversations more than contracts. We need listening posts not more trenches. Open the prison doors. Those locked up outside of this country should be brought back home. We have to rebuild our communities. Inclusively. Communities are the best policemen of pipelines in their environments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giant Cigarettes in the Sky – Nigeria’s Toxic Gas Flares

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Horizontal gas flare, Niger Delta (c) Aloja

Gas flaring is the obnoxious practice of burning natural gas associated with crude oil extraction. To use the words of Joseph Croft of Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN) in the excellent environmental documentary film No Where to Run, the gas flares are like giant cigarettes attached to communities. Some flares are located horizontally, at ground level, posing even greater dangers to the communities. There are several examples, including at Oben, Edo State and Kolo Creek in Bayelsa State.

Communities with gas flare stacks are sentenced to live with these furnaces and cannot avoid the heat, the noise, the poisons and the offensive vista.  It is estimated that flared gas could potentially generate over 25,000 GWh of electricity which would meet a high proportion of Nigeria’s most ambitious power projections.

The Associated Gas Reinjection Act of 1979 outlawed gas flaring in Nigeria with effect from January 1984 and was aimed at compelling oil companies producing oil and gas in Nigeria to submit preliminary programs for gas re-injection as well as detailed plans for implementation. Oil companies can only flare, as an interim measure, if they have site-specific certificates permitting them to flare. Permitted or not, companies are required to pay fines for lighting those giant cigarettes in our communities. Unfortunately, routine gas flaring continues.

About $1.1bn gas flare penalties are reportedly not collected annually. This is more than the amount required to commence the full implementation of the UNEP report on the clean up of Ogoni environment. It simply goes up in smoke annually by way of uncollected fines from gas flaring. This sum could also assist in plugging the deficit in the 2016 National Budget if the reneged oil companies are compelled to pay up.

The penalty for gas flaring remains low and does not offer real incentives to defaulting oil companies to stop the practice. The current penalty for gas flaring in Nigeria was set by a Ministerial directive issued on 15 August 2011 at $3.50 per 1000 standard cubic feet. Attempts by the National Assembly, including through the moribund Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), to raise the penalty to equal the commercial price of natural gas has not seen the light of day.

About $1.1bn gas flare penalties are reportedly not collected annually. This is more than the amount required to commence the full implementation of the UNEP report on the clean up of Ogoni environment. It simply goes up in smoke annually by way of uncollected fines from gas flaring. This sum could also assist in plugging the deficit in the 2016 National Budget if the reneged oil companies are compelled to pay up.

The Nigerian Gas Flare Tracker website informs that, according to a report issued in 2012 by the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force, oil companies often do not pay the fines “and when they do are still paying the old penalty of N10 per 1000 standard cubic feet flared.”

The Task Force reported that the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, was “unable to independently track and measure gas volumes produced and flared. It depends largely on the information provided by the operators. There were no available records or information in respect of gas flare volumes for the years 2005 and 2011.” There are no readily available records for fines paid for gas flared in the period 2012-2015.

The loss of revenue to Nigeria from non-compliance to the 2011 penalty regime is enormous. According to the report of the task force, “Using the DPR gas flare information (irrespective of the inherent errors…) to compute the potential revenues for the relevant years at the rate of $3.50 per scf is $4.1billion versus the $177million computed by the DPR using the N10 per scf.”

The Nigerian Gas Flare Tracker hosted by the Federal Ministry of Environment is a tool that every Nigerian should look up to be informed about the atrocious gas flaring going on at about 220 locations across the Niger Delta. It is a great tool for public information. It is a tool that should spur policy makers into action to rescue our environment.

See the Gas Flare Tracker map here.

 

Dreadful Liars on Heartless Shores

 

Corporatized consciences

Think little of spreading fires

Dreadful liars

Selling adaptation suits for funeral pyres

3 degrees

5 degrees

7 degrees

Flame throwers watch the Planet burn

As fire works herald the New Year so the

Flaming Planet announces the arrival of new species

In islands of belly-churning opulence

Fed by blood from multiple zones of sacrifice

 

Corporatized consciences

Think little of spreading fires

Dreadful liars

Throwing burst life boughs to drowned lands

3 degrees

5 degrees

7 degrees

Lives matter nought

Once fat cats are sated

Other lives don’t matter

Give us today fade out

Survival for future games

In lost memories of tomorrow

 

Corporatized consciences

Elastic tongues propose offset fires

Peddlers of dreadful lies

That though we be charred we aren’t burned

3 degrees

5 degrees

7 degrees

Fat cats hooked on power

Cant stand the heat? Try the cold

Can’t stand the fragrance of the displaced?

Erect Apartheid Walls to enclose privilege

Populate the media, float belly-up

On barricaded heartless shores

 

 

Slow-Tracking the Ogoni Clean up

 

The 30 days ultimatum issued to the Federal Government of Nigeria by the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) over the delayed clean-up of the devastated Ogoni environment did not come as a surprise to observers. The President was widely acclaimed when he declared that the implementation of the UNEP report, released on 4 August 2011, would be fast-tracked. That was five months ago. The initial things that were expected to be done include populating and inauguration of the structures that would over see the implementation exercise. These have not been done. Without these basic structures nothing else can happen.

In the words of the president of MOSOP, Mr. Legborsi Pyagbara, “We are seizing this opportunity to remind the government that the unusual delay for the take-off of the project is becoming unbearable and indeed taxing our patience.” He went on to urge the Federal Government to announce the structures and the roadmap for the implementation of the report in a manner that respects the sensibilities of the communities.

He further stated, “The ongoing delay on the part of the government will continue to be seen as an act of genocide being committed against the Ogoni people. We are giving the Federal Government a 30-day ultimatum to commence the implementation of the report or we will take up a series of non-violent measures to press for our demand.”

“The ongoing delay on the part of the government will continue to be seen as an act of genocide being committed against the Ogoni people.”

The struggle by the Ogoni people took on special impetus in 1993 at the maiden Ogoni Day celebration at which event Shell, the oil company most implicated in the decimation of the Ogoni environment, was declared persona non grata in Ogoniland. The present ultimatum was issued at a rally held to mark the 23rd anniversary of the epochal Ogoni Day on 4 January 2016.

Characterising the slow track on which the implementation process appears to be stuck as perpetuating genocide against the Ogoni people may appear to be rather strong language, but what are the true implications of continued inaction? Disease, poverty and very high mortality rates.

The level of pollution in Ogoni is absolutely astonishing. One can easily become dizzy, just stepping into some of the communities due to the heavy cloak of hydrocarbons fumes hanging in the air. Oil spills clog the streams, creeks and swamps and in some places dribbles of the noxious substance are found along community footpaths. Making matters worse is the fact that some of the spills that occurred years and decades ago have been either ignored or have been shoddily handled. Feeble attempts have been made at K-Dere to cover up decades old soil spill with soil.

Examples of crude covered environment dot the K-Dere, Bodo, Goi and other communities. What we see in Ogoni is sheer ecocide.

UNEP specifically called for emergency actions with regard to some of the heavily polluted areas such as Nisisioken Ogale. Here is what UNEP said in a press release issued on the occasion of the release of their report about five years ago:

“In at least 10 Ogoni communities where drinking water is contaminated with high levels of hydrocarbons, public health is seriously threatened, according to the assessment that was released today.

“In one community, at Nisisioken Ogale, in western Ogoniland, families are drinking water from wells that is contaminated with benzene– a known carcinogen–at levels over 900 times above World Health Organization guidelines. The site is close to a Nigerian National Petroleum Company pipeline.

“UNEP scientists found an 8 cm layer of refined oil floating on the groundwater which serves the wells. This was reportedly linked to an oil spill which occurred more than six years ago.

“While the report provides clear operational recommendations for addressing the widespread oil pollution across Ogoniland, UNEP recommends that the contamination in Nisisioken Ogale warrants emergency action ahead of all other remediation efforts.”

The clean up of Ogoni environment will not be a 100m sprint, but a marathon requiring 25-30 years of dedicated work to accomplish. We are inching towards the five years mark since the alarm bells sounded at the release of the UNEP report. It is five months since President Buhari announced he would fast-track the implementation of the report. We cannot see anything happening on the ground, as attested to by MOSOP.

While the report provides clear operational recommendations for addressing the widespread oil pollution across Ogoniland, UNEP recommends that the contamination in Nisisioken Ogale warrants emergency action ahead of all other remediation efforts.”

Dwindling oil revenue should not be an excuse for not cleaning up the environment of Ogoniland, the Niger Delta and other polluted places in Nigeria. It should rather be an impetus for taking the clean up challenge and punishing polluters who are hooked on habitually corrupting our environment. Ecological corruption is more deadly than financial corruption as it sentences whole communities of humans and other species to ill health and death.

Let the clean up shift form the slow track to the announced fast track. And let the 30 days ultimatum be an encouragement to do so. The Ogoni people have been supremely patient and further testing of their patience would not be the best way to go.