Gas has been flared in Nigeria since the 1950's. Despite the acute energy poverty faced by Nigerians and legislative efforts to reduce gas flaring it is still a major cause of human and environmental health issues in the Niger Delta and realeases vast amounts of CO2 and polutant gases into the atmosphere.
When crude oil is extracted from onshore and offshore oil wells it brings with it raw natural gas to the surface. Where natural gas transportation, pipelines and infrastructure are lacking this gas is instead burned off or flared as a waste product as this is the cheapest option, particularly when gas prices are low and fines are not collected by National regulatory bodies.
The hazardous air pollutants emitted from gas flaring have been shown to impact human health. These include oxides of Nitrogen, Carbon and Sulphur (NO2, CO2, CO, SO2), particulate matter, hydrocarbons and ash, photochemical oxidants, and hydrogen sulphide (H2S).
These pollutants are associated with a variety of adverse health impacts, including cancer, neurological, reproductive and developmental effects. Deformities in children, lung damage and skin problems have also been reported.
The extraction of oil in Nigeria since the 1950s has released vast quantities of liquid pollutants into the Niger Delta, damaging the region’s ecosystem.
Gas flares have been linked to acidification of rain and waterways through the emissions of large quantities of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides into local areas which combine with atmospheric moisture to form sulphuric acid and nitric acid.
Acidification of waterways and rainfall damages vegetation, insect and animal life.
Some birds and many insects are drawn to bright lights at night and studies have show that gas flares can attract birds and insects to their deaths in large numbers.
Various legislative measures to curb gas flaring in Nigeria have been in place since 1969.
Since 1984 it has been illegal to flare gas in Nigeria without the written permission of the Minister of Petroleum Resources.
The current penalties for gas flaring in Nigeria officially stand at $3.50 per 1000 standard cubic feet.
A report by the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force in 2012 found that oil companies often do not comply in paying fines and when they do are still paying the old penalty of N10 per 1000 standard cubic feet flared.
The Task Force also found out that the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, is unable to independently track and measure gas volumes produced and flared and depends largely on information provided by the operators.
The report stated that in November 2012 no penalties for gas flaring had been paid for that year. Details of fines paid for gas flaring during 2013 and 2014 are not available at the time of writing.