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As nations prioritise clean energy, Nigeria still struggling with fossil fuel

It has been 66 years since Nigeria discovered crude oil in commercial quantity and began the exploration of the mineral. However, the country is yet…

It has been 66 years since Nigeria discovered crude oil in commercial quantity and began the exploration of the mineral. However, the country is yet to move to cleaner energy or biofuel away from its legacy fossil fuel, just as advanced nations intensify actions on climate change by cutting fossil fuel, including petroleum products and gas resources.  

The Oloibiri oilfield was discovered on January 15, 1956 by Shell Darcy, which was 66 years nearly three months ago. It was the first commercial oil discovery in Nigeria, according to reports, after 50 years of futile oil prospecting by various international oil companies.

Following the discovery of oil in commercial quantities in Oloibiri, Shell stepped up prospecting and exploration activities in the Niger Delta, and by 1958, the company discovered oil in 12 areas in the area. Out of the identified locations Oloibiri, Afam and Bomu were the most promising.  From 1955, the company began churning out about 5,000 barrels of oil per day while some gas was also discovered along with the oil. 

As oil exploration intensified, Nigeria formalised the energy industry by creating the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on April 1, 1977 as a merger of the Nigerian National Oil Corporation (NNOC) and the Federal Ministry of Petroleum and Energy Resources.

The government even progressed to build three refineries in Port Harcourt, Warri (Delta state) and Kaduna to ensure that while the country continues to export crude in large quantities to drive the economy, petroleum products are available for domestic use.

The journey away from fossils

But as technologies advance and more pollutants are recorded globally, countries are rising against continuous investments in fossil fuel. 

President Muhammadu Buhari, who is the current minister of petroleum, joined other global leaders in Paris, France in 2016 at the COP26, where he signed a climate change accord to aggressively pursue energy transition from fossil fuel to biofuel and cleaner energy.

Countries must end oil production – Report   

According to a report released on Tuesday by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, rich countries must end oil and gas production by 2034 if global warming must be capped at 1.5 degrees Celsius. This would give poorer countries time to replace fossil fuel income, the report added.

The 70-page analysis from the centre released on Tuesday came as nearly 200 countries kicked off a two-week negotiation to validate a landmark assessment of options for reducing carbon pollution and extracting carbon dioxide from the air.

The overarching objective enshrined in the 2015 Paris Agreement, was to cap global warming “well below” 2 degrees Celsius, and 1.5 degrees Celsius if possible. 

There are 88 countries in the world that produce oil and gas. Some poorer countries produce only a tiny percentage of global output of global warming but are so reliant on fossil fuel revenues that rapidly removing this income could undercut their economic or political stability, the report showed.

 Countries such as South Sudan, the Republic of Congo and Gabon have little economic revenue away from oil and gas production.

Although Nigeria is moving from a non-oil economy, its yearly budget is largely dependent on the earning from crude oil sales for funding.

By contrast, wealthy countries that are major producers would remain rich even if fossil fuel income were removed, the Tyndall report noted.

“We use the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita that remains once we have removed the revenue from oil and gas as an indicator of capacity,” lead author and professor of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester, Kevin Anderson, said.

The report noted that by calculation, the very poorest countries could continue to produce out to 2050. Other countries such as China and Mexico were said to be somewhere in between the calculation.

For a 50/50 chance of limiting the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius, 19 countries in which per capita GDP would remain above $50,000 without oil and gas revenue must end production by 2034.

Included in this group are the United States, Norway, Britain, Canada, Australia and the United Arab Emirates.

Another 14 “high capacity” countries where per capita GDP would be about $28,000 without income from oil and gas must end production in 2039. They include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Kazakhstan.

The next group of countries including China, Brazil and Mexico, which would need to end output by 2043, followed by Indonesia, Iran and Egypt in 2045.

Only the poorest oil and gas producing countries such as Iraq, Libya, Nigeria and Angola could continue to pump crude and extract gas until mid-century.

The Minister of Mines, Petroleum and Energy of the Republic of Cote D’Ivoire, Thomas Camara, at an OPEC meeting in December 2021, said the country had initiatives on energy transition, which spanned refinery upgrades to produce cleaner fuels by making butane (gas) more affordable, natural gas-powered vehicles, use of natural gas to replace fuel oil for power generation and a new biofuel refinery to produce 3 million litres of biodiesel annually. 

Biofuel production and use chart



Nigeria’s plan to transit from fossil fuel

Nigeria has been striving to begin the energy transition process nearly 20 years ago. The director-general of the Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN),  Professor Eli Jidere Bala, said the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the Nigerian Biofuel Policy and Incentives in 2007 for the country to adopt biofuel sources, including ethanol, which would help in energy diversification, create jobs and tackle climate issues, as he charged the private sector on more investments. Nothing much was heard about the implementation, even when the ECN said the policy was reviewed after 10 years.

Nigeria is also targeting to ensure that a methanol plant begins operation by 2024, which will be the first significant shift from a fossil fuel-dependent energy sector.

According to a project implementation report obtained from the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited, in 2021, the company partnered with other agencies in the Brass Fertilizer and Petrochemical Company Limited (BFPCL), comprising DSV Engineering Limited and the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) to reach the Final Investment Decision (FID) for the construction of first-ever methanol plant in Nigeria at $3.6billion project cost.  

The integrated methanol and gas project in Odioma, Brass Island in Bayelsa State is expected to begin operation in 2024 when it would produce 10,000 tonnes of methanol daily and would significantly cut its importation.

The NNPC Ltd collaborated with the NCDMB to stake $670 million in the project, its year-record obtained yesterday indicated.

The facility, which would also be the largest methanol plant in Africa, would create 35,000 direct and indirect jobs and another 5,000 permanent jobs when it begins operation.

Also, last year, the Kebbi State Government said it had a partnership with the NNPC and a private company, Contec Global, on how to enhance the production of biofuel.

Governor Atiku Bagudu said that with the NNPC Renewable Energy Division partnership, the proposed biofuel programme, which started years ago, would become a reality.

The Group General Manager, Renewable Energy Division of the NNPC, Jibrin Lawal, an engineer, said the company has two programmes in Kebbi, which include the cassava fuel ethanol and sugarcane fuel ethanol plants.

In December 2020, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, at a function in Abuja, expressed worried that Nigeria had been importing 95 per cent of the ethanol requirement in Nigeria for energy, transport and other uses despite available raw materials.

He said, “The survey is showing that only five per cent of our requirement of ethanol is being produced in the country. So we are bringing in 95 per cent; and it is like we are sending out jobs we can give our people.

“For fuel, it is important because it is cheaper and gives you lower emission to be as friendly as possible to the environment,” Onu noted.

He said ethanol was made from mostly cassava and maize, and had proven in Brazil and other countries to be an alternative to diesel and petrol.

“So we need to be in a position to produce ethanol in the country to create more jobs and wealth,” he said.

Onu also said Nigeria had committed to use biofuel to reduce emissions by 20 per cent unconditionally and 45 per cent conditionally from the level it was in 2015, with the target in 2030.

How Nigeria can hasten fossil fuel exit –  Experts

Experts have added their voices on how Nigeria can transit from fossil fuel, even before the 2050 timeline for global exit from oil dependence. Already, the minister of state for petroleum, Timipre Sylva, has harped on the Decade of Gas, advocating that Nigeria and Africa should be allowed by advanced countries to invest more in gas as countries gradually face-off crude oil product’s usage. He noted that gas could solve the energy needs of 600million Africans.

Speaking to Daily Trust on Sunday, Mr Toochukwu Osuji, the chief executive officer of Greenocks Biodiesel Limited, a start-up in Lagos, called for more support to enable his firm to expand in the conversion of waste vegetable oil it converts to biodiesel for powering diesel engines. With more investments in that realm, Osuji said it would be affordable. 

At present, the diesel price hike is biting harder at over N650 per litre.

On how he started, Osuji, who is a graduate of Chemical Engineering from Covenant University and a member of the Biofuel Refiners, Producers and Distributors Association of Nigeria, started after submitting his final project on biodiesel refinery in the university.

“I must say that this is not an innovation because it is existent in other countries, but the trend is just developing in Nigeria as an alternative fuel.

“Biodiesel is an alternative for diesel that can run engines. Anything that diesel can power, biodiesel can also power it.  It works for cars, generators, tractors and any other heavy-duty machine,” Osuji said.

His firm can produce 500 to 1,000 litres daily but can go beyond that as the demand improves.

The Secretary-General and Director of Technical at the Biofuel Refiners, Producers and Distributors Association of Nigeria, Mr Paul Ugburo, had called for more support.  

Ugburo said, “There are a lot of things we can do with environmental waste to create biogas and other alternatives to Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and other mainstream fuel sources that are climate-friendly.

“China started to encourage such entrepreneurial tendencies on clean energy, and today, they have really gone far.”

Also speaking, an energy expert and consultant, Dr Solomon Adeleye, said there was no political will on the part of the government to spearhead energy transition as there must be infrastructure to support the treatments. 

He said, “There is no political will. They are not helping investors. It is not friendly for the investors to come.

“Then the gas infrastructure is not developed. They have not developed the gas field. When I mean it is not developed, the fields have to have pipe networks for gathering the gas and transporting it to where it should go.

“I think it is just about 30 per cent of it that has been completed. So it is difficult. How will the investors come? He cannot sign an agreement or purchase an agreement where he cannot get it.

“We need something like a baseline. When I talk about baseline, it means that in every component of the fossil fuel – gas, renewable, you know what you want to do with each of them; then you can develop each of those programmes one by one. We don’t have those types of structures, we don’t have anything in place; we just do our things haphazardly, which is really unfortunate.

“So we need to implement the programmes and implement the “infrastructure related” to make it happen to support what we want to do,” Adeleye explained.

The energy expert noted that Nigeria could utilise solar power in many places but have not leveraged that.  

“We can have a solar panel plant, but we are just making too much noise. For instance, Borno State has 14 hours of solar light and some of those northern states. So why don’t we utilise those power to generate electricity?

“We also have water in abundance: small, medium dams we are not using. We have everything but we are not utilising them. It is one thing to have, it is another thing to know the value of what you have,” he concluded.

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