Published 30 November 2021
The flaring of gas and consequent carbon dioxide emissions from oil and gas installations is a significant environmental problem in many countries and a key contributor to global warming and climate change. The process consumes useful natural resources and produces harmful waste that negatively impacts the environment and the economy. Although loosely prohibited in many countries, the global industry continues to flare a substantial amount of associated gas during exploration and production activities. Current data on global gas flaring indicates that gas flaring occurs in most oil and gas producing countries, including the United Kingdom and Nigeria. Nigeria is regarded as the seventh-largest gas flaring nation in the world, and gas flaring seems to be a major problem, despite having relevant laws in place. The oil and gas industry in the UK has managed to reduce flaring and venting significantly, with the independent regulator, in collaboration with environmental agencies, adopting a much more rigorous approach to hold the industry to account for their commitment to halving their production emissions by 2030 as a pivotal part of the government's target for net-zero emissions by 2050.
Comparing the regulatory efforts in these two countries forms the crux of this article. While the UK's regime is generally regarded as well developed, robust and effective in dealing with flaring, it appears that Nigeria still needs to do much more to tackle the menace of flaring. Consequently, the paper critically reviews the law and policy regimes for the regulation of gas flaring and enhancing gas utilisation in these two countries. It explains how the regulatory regimes emerged including key strengths and weaknesses, and it also discusses the international dimension in terms of the overall UN Climate Change agenda. The paper employs a doctrinal methodology approach involving a review of industry and library-based literature for a critical analysis of the effectiveness of the regulatory regime for gas flaring and venting in the UK and Nigeria. This discussion highlights useful lessons from the UK’s experience, for countries such as Nigeria where enforcement of the existing anti-gas flaring laws and regulations has been weak as there is still a considerable amount of gas that is being flared due to ineffective regulatory practices. Though in recent years data have shown that the county has reduced gas flaring by almost 70%, and in 2021 finally passed the long-awaited controversial Petroleum Industry Bill into law which provides some clarity on gas flaring, nevertheless there is still room for improving the regulatory framework. This paper concludes with a caution that Nigeria's new framework may not likely achieve its goal unless a more professional and independent regulator adopt a transparent, robust and rigorous approach to regulation, with the supporting political will and mindset of all stakeholders, in order to effectively enforce the extant anti-gas flaring regulations.
This paper will be part of the OGEL Special Issue on "Law and Policy for Gas Flaring in a Low-carbon Economy". More information here www.ogel.org/news.asp?key=660