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Author Topic: Nigeria - Impact of oil industry on the environment  (Read 818 times)

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Nigeria - Impact of oil industry on the environment
« on: April 30, 2013, 07:56:41 AM »
The Niger Delta comprises 70,000 km² of wetlands formed primarily by sediment deposition. Home to 20 million people and 40 different ethnic groups, this floodplain makes up 7.5% of Nigeria's total land mass. It is the larges t wetland and maintains the third-largest drainage area in Africa. The Delta's environment can be broken down into four ecological zones: coastal barrier islands, mangrove swamp forests, freshwater swamps, and low land rain forests. This incredibly well-endowed ecosystem, which contains one of the highest concentrations of biodiversity on the planet, in addition to supporting the abundant flora and fauna, arable terrain that can sustain a wide variety of crops, economic trees,
and more species of freshwater fish than any ecosystem in West Africa. The region could experience a loss of 40% of its inhabitable terrain in the next thirty years because of extensive dam construction in the region. The carelessness of the oil industry has also precipitated this situation, which can perhaps be best encapsulated by a 1983 report issued by the NNPC in 1983, long before popular unrest surfaced:

We witnessed the slow poisoning of the waters of this country and the destruction of vegetation and agricultural land by oil spills which occur during petroleum operations. But since the inception of the oil industry in Nigeria, more than twenty-five years ago, there has been no concerned and effective effort on the part of the government, let alone the oil operators, to control environmental problems associated with the industry.

Oil Spills and more
Oil spills in Nigeria are a common occurrence; it has been estimated that between 9 million to 13 million barrels have been spilled since oil drilling started in 1958. The government estimates that about 7,000 spills occurred between 1970 and 2000.Causes include corrosion of pipelines and tankers (accounts for 50% of all spills), sabotage (28%), and oil production operations (21%), with 1% of the spills being accounted for by inadequate or non-functional production equipment. A reason that corrosion accounts for such a high percentage of all spills is that as a result of the small size of the oilfields in the Niger Delta, there is an extensive network of pipelines between the fields. Many facilities and pipelines have been constructed to older standards, poorly maintained and outlived their estimated life span. Sabotage is performed primarily through what is known as "bunkering", whereby the saboteur taps a pipeline, and in the process of extraction sometimes the pipeline is damaged. Oil extracted in this manner can often be sold for cash compensation.

Oil spillage has a major impact on the ecosystem. Large tracts of the mangrove forests, which are especially susceptible to oil (this is mainly because it is stored in the soil and re-released annually with inundation), have been destroyed. An estimated 5–10% of Nigerian mangrove ecosystems have been wiped out either by settlement or oil. Spills take out crops and aquacultures through contamination of the groundwater and soils. Drinking water is also frequently contaminated, and a sheen of oil is visible in many localised bodies of water. If the drinking water is contaminated, even if no immediate health effects are apparent, the numerous hydrocarbons and chemicals present in oil represent a carcinogenic risk. Offshore spills, which are usually much greater in scale, contaminate coastal environments and cause a decline in local fishing production.
Nigerian regulations are weak and rarely enforced allowing oil companies, in essence, to self-regulate

Natural gas flaring
Nigeria flares more natural gas associated with oil extraction than any other country, with estimates suggesting that of the 3.5 billion cubic feet (99,000,000 m3) of associated gas (AG) produced annually, 2.5 billion cubic feet (71,000,000 m3), or about 70% is wasted via flaring. Statistical data associated with gas flaring is notoriously unreliable, but AG wasted during flaring is estimated to cost Nigeria US $2.5 billion on a yearly basis. Companies operating in Nigeria harvest natural gas for commercial purposes, however prefer to extract it gas from deposits where it is found in isolation as non-associated gas. It is costly to separate commercially viable associated gas from oil, hence gas flaring to increase crude production.

Gas flaring is discouraged by the international community as it contributes to climate change. In fact, in western Europe 99% of associated gas is used or re-injected into the ground. Gas flaring in Nigeria releases large amounts methane, which has very high global warming potential. The methane is accompanied by carbon dioxide, of which Nigeria is estimated to have emitted more than 34.38 million tons in 2002, accounting for about 50% of all industrial emissions in the country and 30% of the total CO2 emissions. As flaring in the west has been minimized, in Nigeria it has grown proportionally with oil production. While the international community, the Nigerian government, and the oil corporations seem to agree that gas flaring need to be curtailed, efforts to do so have been slow and largely ineffective.

Gas flares release a variety of potentially poisonous chemicals such as nitrogen dioxides, sulphur dioxide, volatile organic compounds like benzene, toluene, xylene and hydrogen sulfide, as well as carcinogens like benzapyrene and dioxins.
Often gas flares are often close to local communities, and lack adequate fencing or protection for villagers who may risk nearing the heat of the flare in order to carry out their daily activities. Flares which are often older and inefficient are rarely relocated away from villages, and are known to coat the land and communities in the area with soot and damage adjacent vegetation.

In November 2005 a judgment by, "the Federal High Court of Nigeria ordered that gas flaring must stop in a Niger Delta community as it violates guaranteed constitutional rights to life and dignity. In a case brought against the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (Shell), Justice C. V. Nwokorie ruled in Benin City that the damaging and wasteful practice of flaring cannot lawfully continue."


Adewale Odubiyi
Owner, Nigeria Oil & Gas Forum

Nigeria Oil & Gas Forum

Nigeria - Impact of oil industry on the environment
« on: April 30, 2013, 07:56:41 AM »

 

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