Doha declaration on natural gas: Another window of opportunity for Nigeria




At the just concluded 6th Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF), in Doha, Qatar, on Tuesday, February 22, 2022, the importance of natural gas in the global energy mix was again reiterated and leaders of the GECF including Nigeria declared that natural gas will continue to play a very crucial role in alleviating energy poverty, fuelling economic growth, expanding prosperity, and contributing to the protection of the environment.

Resolution

Collectively, the GECF members declared that as the global population nears the 10 billion mark by 2050, and global Gross Domestic Products (GDP) more than doubling, natural gas as an abundant, affordable, clean, and reliable source of energy, and as the fuel of choice to satisfy the growing world energy needs, and to address climate change and improve air quality, will continue to play a pivotal role in the move towards global energy sufficiently.

They resolved to pursue the necessary steps for natural gas to be treated as an environmentally friendly good in climate and investment regulations, international banking and global trade.

This declaration has further given credence to the fact that renewable energy alone cannot meet the world’s growing energy demand and natural gas certainly fits as the next best alternative as part of the future energy mix.

Rising gas demand

In the global Gas Outlook released by the GECF, on Monday, February 28, 2022, in Doha, Qatar, the Forum predicts that “Africa will witness the highest growth rate in natural gas demand among all regions, rising by 155% to 395 bcm by 2050 with Nigeria and Egypt leading the way”. It’s an opportunity for Nigeria to invest and focus more on gas exploitation to achieve maximum financial benefits.

GECF attributed the projection in demand to the “availability of rich gas reserves and the upbeat outlook for indigenous production offer significant prospects for its increased domestic use”.

The body however added a caveat that infrastructure expansion could be a potential obstacle in the region, but noted that “a number of countries have plans for pipeline construction and network development to stimulate local consumption. Accelerated economic activity and rising urban population, accompanied by an unprecedented increase in electricity demand, the GECF said would be the key drivers.

‘Maximum benefits’

Minister of State Petroleum Resources Chief Timipre Sylva, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari at the Doha Summit expressed Nigeria’s readiness to focus more and derive maximum benefits from natural gas exploitation.

Buhari at the Summit said “the recent enactment of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) is an indication of our commitment to derive more value from natural gas by providing the required governance, regulatory and fiscal framework to support the growth of the industry…Nigeria, a gas province with some oil, is committed to sustainable growth of natural gas exploitation and utilization, both for domestic use and export via LNG and pipeline gas to sub-regional African countries” stressing that “Nigeria is embarking on different initiatives, projects, and policies to enhance the performance of the oil and gas sector”.

With a proven natural gas reserve of about 206.53 tcf and over 600,000 tcf of untapped reserves, Nigeria stands top on the global scale of nations that will in the future direct the global energy path.

Driving the gas agenda

The participation of Nigeria in the 6th edition of the GECF meeting in Doha, Qatar, shows the strategic position Nigeria occupies in the world in terms of gas as affirmed by the GECF Global Outlook. To put it succinctly, this puts a very significant responsibility on the shoulders of the government in driving this emerging global commodity to the zenith of significance in the life of the nation.

Sylva over the two and half years as Minister of State Petroleum resources noted that the only sustainable path to Nigeria’s diversification and industrialization is through natural gas. At the Doha Summit, Sylva said Nigeria must latch on the new momentum and growing global interests in natural gas to face squarely the direction of gas exploration.

He warned that the methodology must be different from the approach the nation adopted in oil exploration and exploitation in the past adding that natural gas should be a blessing to Nigeria and Nigerians and as such policies and robust investments must be sustained in this sector by the government.

It is instructive to note that from natural gas, several products can be obtained such as; Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) to power vehicles, Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) as domestic cooking gas, petrochemical, pharmaceuticals, plastic, synthetic, fertilizer, ethanol and a host of other chemical products and if Nigeria properly harnesses all these from natural gas, apart from helping to shore up its revenue base, the lives of the average Nigerian will be enhanced, with millions of jobs created.

As a matter of urgency, the Nigerian government must redirect its investments to gas, especially now that the global community is pushing oil majors across the world to divest from hydrocarbon exploitation in place of renewables such as wind and solar energy.

Gas as transition fuel

In the midst of the clamour for divestments by the western nations from hydrocarbons, it is however refreshing to note that the global community has switched gear to begin to classify gas as part of the clean energy mix that will help as transition fuel. This is the opportunity that the Nigerian government needs to cash-in on in pushing huge investments in the direction of natural gas.

Sylva, with the support and guidance of President Buhari who doubles as the Minister of Petroleum Resources, has been in the vanguard of pushing for investments in this direction.

In 2020 as a mark of commitment to the gas project, the federal government lunched the Decade of Gas and this gave traction to the foundation laying ceremony of Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG) Train 7, in Bonny, Rivers State, the crystallization of the Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano popularly referred to as the AKK Gas pipeline project, the Auto-Gas project that will see Nigerians having alternative source of fuel to power vehicles in the form of CNG, as well as the National Gas Expansion Programme (NGEP), designed to deepen domestic gas penetration in the country are some of the clear commitments on the part of the federal government in deliberately directing investments in natural gas exploitation.

At the global fora, the GECF has reemphasized the commitment of member countries to their long-term partnerships with buyers across the globe, for the sustainable supply of natural gas and coupled with the decision to sustain long-term natural gas contracts, are to say the least “the best mechanism to ensure security of supply and avoid potential energy crises”.

Horatius Egua, the Senior Adviser (Media and Communications to Minister of State Petroleum Resources, wrote this piece from Abuja.

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