Natural Gas Transmission And Distribution In Nigeria

Opinion

INTRODUCTION

Natural gas as a raw material is produced in abundance in oil and gas wells throughout Nigeria. However, according to a US Geological study, Nigeria may now be considered more a gas producing country, as opposed to an oil producing country. This conclusion is drawn from recent estimates indicating that the country’s gas reserves could be as high as 600 trillion cubic feet, which is three times more than the current conventional estimate of 187 trillion cubic feet.

Nigerian gas is concentrated in the Niger Delta which covers an area of about 41,000 sq. miles (106,189.50 km2). Of the total Nigeria’s proven reserves, 70% is located on land while 30% can be found off-shore. About 60% are located east of the River Niger while the rest are to the West of the River Niger. Experts estimate that the reserves locked in the Nigerian soil is enough to last as long as 500 years, fuelling our industries, homes, and international export.

Although produced in such large quantities, the lack of infrastructure and effective transmission and distribution systems result in a significant percentage of this energy being flared off, thereby resulting in wastage of valuable and scarce foreign exchange for the country.

In 1983 alone, 78.65% of the total gas produced was flared, amounting to approximately 106.36 T kcal/year (1.241 GSCF/D). In an attempt to curtail this colossal wastage of energy and valuable raw material, the Federal Government of Nigeria passed a law on gas flaring, and imposed a fine of thirty kobo (30 kobo per m3 in 1979 was equivalent to about 45 cents/m3) per cubic meter of gas flared. This yielded little or no result, since the oil producing companies found it more convenient and economical to flare the produced gases.

The question, however, is how does this impact or affect the level of poverty prevalent in a nation so richly endowed with natural resources in the affected areas where the gas is being explored and exploited?

INSTITUTIONAL AMBIVALENCE

Put in its simplest terms, Nigerian leadership lacks innovative drive, and the fortitude to transform nascent innovation into concrete reality. No grand vision or idea for anything like Dubai, which owes its growth and outstanding success to visionary leadership, strategic planning, innovative projects, and meticulous execution. No ideas like the fast bullet train in China, or the magnificent airport of Hong Kong, has been proposed by Nigerian leaders.

The problem with Nigeria is not lack of technical expertise. It can be characterised by decades of non-implementation of any ideas, recycling and revolving unsound leaders, and primitive unpatriotic accumulation of personal wealth. Less qualified foreign experts are rather preferred, often for kickbacks. No country on planet earth has ever developed without making things independently for itself.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS AND DESIGN OF PROPOSED SOLUTION

Back in 1988, my colleagues and I suggested a solution of developing a pipeline network for natural gas distribution for Port Harcourt (SPE Paper 17732: Igwe, Wami, Ewili: SPE Gas Technology Symposium, 13-15 June 1988, Dallas, Texas). One of the main objectives in the design of pipeline systems is the optimal selection of the diameter of the pipelines, location of the compressors, and its capacities such that the overall cost of transportation is minimized. Essentially, optimization of gas distribution or transmission network and capacity expansions of natural gas can be divided into four overlapping parts, namely, optimal layout of the network, static design, determination of the steady state flow and pressure characteristics, and the dynamic design which optimally expands the network over time to meet a given time variant demand/supply for gas.

Based on our work, significant progress can be made towards solving the problem of design of natural gas transmission network in Nigeria, thereby conserving the huge energy wastage due to flaring. Though this study was carried out using Port Harcourt, it can also be applied to other cities in Nigeria by either adding more branches or decreasing the branches, or simply modernizing the network to suit the particular city. In addition, since natural gas has a higher calorific heating value (per unit mass) than liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), government should standardise the gas burners in order to make room for the use of natural gases at home. Finally, the government should formulate an energy policy that will encourage both industrial and residential users of natural gas.

•Godwin is a Fellow of The American Institute of Chemical Engineers. He is also a World Bank Robert McNamara, and Alexander-von-Humboldt Fellow. Contact: [email protected]