15 January 2009

Oil giants continue to flare in Nigeria

Campaign groups call on Nigerian government to step up the pressure

Tom Young, BusinessGreen, 13 Jan 2009

Nigeria pic

Royal Dutch Shell is still flaring natural gas in Nigeria, releasing thousands of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere unnecessarily, despite a deadline set by the Nigerian government for the practice to stop on 1 January, according to campaigners.

The gas rises naturally as oil is drilled and is a potential source of energy, but a standoff between Shell and the Nigerian government over who is responsible is leading to inaction on harnessing that energy – meaning the gas is burned at great cost to the environment.

Local campaigners say Nigeria is in the grip of a power generation crisis and the gas that is being burned could help provide the electricity the country desperately needs in order to develop its economy.

"Gas flaring is still going on in most of the flow stations operated by Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Total," said Isaac Asume Osuoka, an activist for local campaing group social action told BusinessGreen.com today.

Shell says the government is not helping with investment in piping infrastructure needed to route the gas elsewhere.

The government says it is Shell's responsibility to shut down wells so that alternative arrangements for the gas can be made.

The world bank estimates at least 150 billion cubic meters of natural gas are being flared and vented annually, adding about 400 million tons of CO2 in annual emissions to the atmosphere.

Nigeria is the second largest gas flaring nation in the world after Russia.

The practice costs the African country about $2.5bn (£1.7bn) annually according to Friends of the Earth, while more than 66 per cent of the population is estimated to live in poverty.

Friends of the Earth yesterday released a statement calling on the Nigerian government to take harsher action against the oil companies.

“Major oil companies are flaring gas in the oil-rich Niger Delta despite the fact that a Nigerian judge stated that flaring is illegal. Led by oil giant Shell, they have been burning gas for decades when they could be using it to provide energy to the local population," says the statement.

“Flaring can lead to leukemia, asthma and premature death; and it causes acid rain, which acidifies lakes and streams and damages the environment. The government must ensure that oil companies stop this destructive practice now.”

© Incisive Media Ltd. 2009

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