Gas flaring have been condemned severally in different countries of the world. Though the practice is still obtainable in some countries with many calling for a stop. The environmental and health implications were examined with Nigeria as a case study. Data and information were retrieved from pubmed, medline and other search engines. All available data/information depict the negative effects of gas flaring on the environment and humans. Gas flaring have impoverished the communities where it is practiced, with attendant environmental, economic and health challenges. Reluctance on the part of government and policy makers is also a factor. These difficulties faced by local communities from gas flares are a sufficient justification for ending gas flaring practice. Fines by defaulting companies should be so exorbitant so as to deter them while the gas can be processed and produced into cooking/domestic gas. The time to stop is now and the place to stop is here: Nigeria.
Gas flaring is the burning of natural gas that is associated with crude oil when it is pumped up from the ground. In petroleum-producing areas where insufficient investment was made in infrastructure to utilize natural gas, flaring is employed to dispose of this associated gas . Also chemical factories, oil refineries, oil wells, rigs and landfills, gaseous waste products and sometimes even non-waste gases produced are routed to an elevated vertical chimney called a gas flare and burnt off at its tip, This is called gas flaring. Waste gases are subjected to such a process either because the gases are waste or it is difficult to store and transport them. Non-waste gases are burnt off to protect the processing equipment when unexpected high pressure develops within them. Gas flaring in oil rigs and wells contribute significantly to greenhouse gases in our atmosphere .
1.1. Gas Flaring in Nigeria
Nigeria flares 17.2 billion m3 of natural gas per year in conjunction with the exploration of crude oil in the Niger Delta. This high level of gas flaring is equal to approximately one quarter of the current power consumption of the African continent. Even though we have grown to be fairly dependent on oil and it has become the center of current industrial development and economic activities, we rarely consider how oil exploration and exploitation processes create environmental, health, and social problems in local communities near oil producing fields.
The Nigerian government has not enforced environmental regulations effectively because of the overlapping and conflicting jurisdiction of separate governmental agencies governing petroleum and the environment as well as because of non-transparent governance mechanisms. Neither the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) nor the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) has implemented anti-flaring policies for natural gas waste from oil production, nor have they monitored the emissions to ensure compliance. The Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) has had the authority to issue standards for water, air and land pollution and has had the authority to make regulations for oil industry. However, in some cases their regulations conflict with the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR)’s regulations started in 1991 for oil exploration .
From an economic perspective, the Nigerian government’s main interest in the oil industry is to maximize its monetary profits from oil production. Oil companies find it more economically expedient to flare the natural gas and pay the insignificant fine than to re-inject the gas back into the oil wells. Additionally, because there is an insufficient energy market especially in rural areas, oil companies do not see an economic incentive to collect the gas. From a social perspective, the oil-producing communities have experienced severe marginalization and neglect. The environment and human health have frequently been a secondary consideration for oil companies and the Nigerian government. However, although there may be reasons for the continuous gas flaring, there are many strong arguments suggesting that it should be stopped.
Corporations’ accountability to the people and environment surrounding them imply that oil companies should be required to re-inject the gas, to recover it, or to shut down any extraction facilities in which the gas flaring is occurring. Because of this massive oil exploration in the Niger Delta, the ramifications for human health, local culture, indigenous self-determination, and the environment are severe. As is the case in most oil producing regions of less developed countries, the economic and political benefits are given significantly more weight by the government than the resulting damage to the environment and human health.