INTERVIEW: Stable electricity? The solution is gas, says expert
Bala David, Commercial Manager, Nigerian Gas Processing and Transportation Company Limited in this interview with our correspondent, Theresa Igata, says Nigeria has more than enough gas to solve her power problems.
Solving Nigeria’s gas problem
Nigeria has oil and every oil that comes out is mixed with gas. There’s no oil well that does not have gas, but there are gas wells that don’t have oil. For the oil wells that have gas, we can say there’s equivalent oil and gas in Nigeria and so we can say that we have more gas than oil.
The United States George Bush Poll says that Nigeria is a gas province with some oil. All this while that we’ve been going for the oil, we flare the gas because for you to actually utilise the gas we also need infrastructure to extract the gas just as we do with the oil, but most people just go for the oil and flare the gas.
Natural gas is the cheaper and safest form of energy to use and it has become more important in the energy market now because we can generate power from it rather than just taking the oil, refining it and then getting the diesel we use for our generators.
Need to maximise gas potentials in Nigeria
Now that it has become important for us to grow our economy we need to monetise the gas and that is why of course, the normal routine of NNPC activities is to look for the oil which is done by the Integrated Data Services Limited, IDSL; when they get it, Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, goes there to bring out the oil and PPMC go to take the oil to the three refineries to be refined and then takes it back to sell it.
The Nigerian Gas Company was formed because of the activities of gas. Another company that was formed for that purpose is the Liquefied Natural Gas, LNG, which is saddled to take natural gas across the border.
If you want to export gas you can use any pipeline but if you want to use the gas in Brazil from Nigeria you cannot put pipeline from here because it’s not cost effective. What you do instead is to cool the gas to about 600OC; it liquefies and you put it in cryogenic vessels and transport it on sea to Brazil and then you re-gasify and sell it; this is handled by the LNG.
For the domestic gas that we can use pipeline to provide for power, that’s where the former Nigerian Gas Company evolved. They don’t produce the gas because it is Chevron, Shell and NNPC that does that. NGC goes there with their facility, gather the gas, treat it, transport it and then market and distribute it.
Going forward the government decided to separate it. So the first three: gathering, treating and transporting were carved out to form the Nigerian Gas Processing and Transportation Company, now one of the 14 subsidiaries of the NNPC. When the NGPTC gets the gas it transports it and then the Nigerian Gas Marketing Company, market and distribute the gas. The NGPTC and NGMC were one until 2016 when they were separated. So we now have separate MDs, Directors and staff for both companies now that manage our gas.
Monetising our gas reserve
There is 85 per cent of methane in natural gas and it is the lightest and the safest form of energy and the reserve we have is about 192tcf and in world ranking it makes us 9th in the whole world, but unfortunately we’re not utilising the gas we have the way we should and of course we can use the gas to generate power. Two per cent of our reserve which is 10 billion standard cubic feet can generate 30,000mw of electricity in a day but the highest we’ve generated is 4.2mw, meaning that on an average basis you can only keep Nigeria without power for 4 hours 20 minutes out of 24 hours. For all Nigerians to have 24 hours electricity supply we need 24,000mw and 2 per cent of our reserve can give you 30,000mw, so you can take 24,000mw from this, give 24 hours light and then export the remaining 6,000mw but we’re not doing that because our focus is on oil.
With these we need to monetise gas because it brings so much money and has the multiplier effect. The natural gas on its own, by the time you’re transporting it you can use it to make raw materials for fertiliser, which is ammonia.
Unfortunately in Nigeria, we’ve had only one government owned fertiliser company; National Fertiliser Company of Nigeria, NAFCON, in Onne, Port Harcourt and unfortunately also we’ve not been able to manage it so we sold it to Notore company and we go to import 30 per cent of what we need for farmers in Nigeria from a country (Trinidad and Tobago) that has less than 10 per cent of our reserves.
The natural gas is also safest for cooking and driving vehicles. The LPG collects at ground level and it catches fire easily but the natural gas is hard to ignite and because it is lighter than air, even when it is leaking it goes up and doesn’t collect at ground level; yet we have not maximised its use.
If we don’t monetise it the infrastructure/investment we need to bring in more will not be there because the gas we’re even getting we’re giving 80 per cent to PHCN but citizens are not paying their electricity bill so PHCN cannot even pay us for the gas. The reserve we have on the ground cannot come out unless we pay the right price, which is why we have to monetise it.
We have two types of gas; the ones that come from the ground with crude oil and the one without crude oil. The ones without crude oil, if you open the ground and it is coming out and you don’t have the facilities to utilise it you can cover it up again; so you can’t flare it. You can only flare associated gas which is associated with crude oil where you take the crude oil and then flare the gas. Sometimes Shell and others prefer to flare the gas because it is cheaper for them.
Flaring now though has gone down from 15 per cent in 2011 to 10 per cent now. So it is only 10 per cent of associated gas that is being flared now. We’re crawling in solving the problem but we’ll gradually get there.