Methane is a colorless, odorless and easily flammable gas, employed primarily as fuel for making heat and light, as well as manufacturing organic chemicals. Chemical reports indicate that it can be formed by natural material decays, making it most common in landfills, septic systems, sewers and marshes. It is also said to be found in coal gas and in homes, it naturally exists underground and for its numerous advantages such as fueling water heaters, stoves and clothes dryers, the Lagos State government have announced its intention to capture and utilize these gases from dump sites and landfills in the state.
With methane evaporating instantly, most of the gas in lakes, streams and soil end up in the air. This becomes a major cause of global warming and climate change, also regarded as the greenhouse gases. Reports note that these levels remain in the atmosphere for an estimated ten years, opposed to a hundred years of carbon dioxide. Thus, cutting down on emissions has been projected to have an immediate effect on global warming. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Scientists were reported to have discovered at least 50 hotspots with methane emission across the world, using a technique developed for studying how dust impacts the climate. NASA noted that the advent of this discovery could help the fight against greenhouse gases.
Nigeria’s fossil fuel production raises concerns on its emissions.
Data from NASA’s Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source investigation revealed that over 50 super emitters were discovered across Central Asia, Middle East, as well as the Southwestern region of the United States. These super emitters were defined to be facilities, infrastructure and other equipment, typically in fossil-fuel, agricultural sector or waste, which emits methane at an extremely high rate. The 12 plumes of Turkmenistan oil and gas facility, for instance, is estimated to emit about 50,400kg per hour, similar to the Aliso Canyon gas field rupture which was ranked as one of the biggest methane leaks in US history. Researchers are however hoping that more hotspots would be discovered soon.
Despite no Nigerian site being listed in the super emitter category, the country’s fossil fuel production means that we must be greatly concerned. With methane being a hydrocarbon majorly emitted via natural gas, coal mining and agricultural activities, it has been described as the second most greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide. As such, the oil and gas sector is an essential contributor. The US Environmental Protection Agency once reported that China, USA, Brazil, Indonesia, Russia, India, Mexico and Nigeria were solely responsible for at least half of all the anthropogenic emissions globally. However, the sources of emission between these countries reportedly varied. While China emitted it’s emissions via coal production, Russia did through its oil and gas system. In the US, human activities such as livestock, fermentation, oil and gas and landfills were the major sources of greenhouse gases.
Efforts are being enacted in the US to capture and use these gases.
In Nigeria, biogas (sewage and landfills), oil and gas, agricultural activities, fermentation and coal mines are the biggest sources of methane emission. The Clean Air Task Force however reported that Nigeria had taken a world leadership role in facilitating necessary policies to curb these emissions. This aside, Nigeria is also a part of the Global Gas Faring Reduction Partnership and has also endorsed the Zero Routine Flaring by 2030 Initiative, established by the World Bank. Although Nigeria was reported to have flared about 70 percent of its natural gas since 2000, it still flared 7.2 billion cubic gas meters in 2020, the 7th largest in the world that year.
However, reports suggest that Nigeria has commenced full concentration on these emission. The National Action Plan was published in 2019, in a bid to eradicate short lived sources of climate pollution and joined the Methane Alliance, pledging a 45 percent reduction by 2025 and 60-70 percent by 2030. In the United States, efforts are being enacted to capture and use these gases. Programs are also being set up to curb a range of informational, institutional and technical barriers to reducing this.
First in Africa to regulate emission in its energy sector is Nigeria.
The available opportunities for reducing methane emission require recovering these emissions and using it as fuel for generating electricity, on-site and off-site uses. In coal mining for instance, the gas is emitted prior and during the mining activities and these can be recovered through natural pipeline injection, district heating production of power and even coal drying. With Nigeria being a major vocalist in the quest for curbing methane emission, the Deputy Manager of Laboratory Services of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, Ibrahim Mohammad, disclosed that Nigeria was the first African country to regulate the emission of methane in its energy sector.