The Nigerian government is determined to end the practice of gas flaring by 2008, according to a government minister.
Tony Chukwueke, director of the department of petroleum resources, told a conference on gas utilisation in Lagos last month (23–25 October) that the government was confident about meeting the January 2008 target for stopping gas flaring.
But critics say no measures are yet in place to implement the policy.
Gas flaring is the process of burning-off surplus combustible vapours from an oil well, either as a means of disposal or as a safety measure to relieve well pressure. It contributes to carbon dioxide emissions, which in turn cause climate change.
About 32 per cent of Nigeria's natural gas supplies are wasted through flaring, Chukwueke said in a press statement from the conference.
Chukwueke told oil companies who practise gas flaring in the Niger delta to ensure compliance and put the gas to better use, such as making it available for use as fuel, re-injecting it back into the ground or liquefying it for transport. He warned that companies that flare gas after 1 January would be shut down.
But Henry Okolo, the chief executive of Dorman Long Engineering, a privately owned Nigerian company, disagreed with the deadline.
"I don't think it can even happen in 2010, because the bodies involved are not disciplined," Okolo said in a press statement from the conference. He added that the contracts that would ensure the success of the programme have not yet been awarded.
Okolo predicted that the earliest Nigeria could achieve capping gas flares would be 2012.
Ayo Odusola, an economist from the UN Environment Programme in Nigeria, noted that tackling climate change could benefit Nigeria's ability to reach the Millennium Development Goals of ensuring environmental sustainability, slashing poverty, and improving education and employment.
"It is an anomaly that a country that flares so much gas is lacking adequate electricity, and other domestic fuels like cooking gas," Odusola told a conference on the Millennium Development Goals in Abeokuta, Ogun State, last month (17–19 October).
"The United Nations and other partners are working towards how the Nigerian gas will be converted to usable forms,'' Odusola said.