Routine gas flaring not only helps warm the planet with carbon dioxide, but it can also harm the health of people who live near gas sites. It also wastes a potentially useful source of energy, a problem that is particularly acute in poorer countries.
According to the World Bank report, 700 million people currently lack permanent access to energy, and more than 620 million, the vast majority of them in sub-Saharan Africa, could still do without reliable electricity by 2030.
Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer and the largest gas flare country in the sub-Saharan region, has cut gas consumption by 70 percent in the past 15 years, the World Bank report said. This reduction was partly due to projects that helped the country convert exhaust gas into liquid fuels for export.
Recently, however, Nigeria has had problems with gas flare volumes increasing slightly between 2018 and 2019. A promise to end flaring by 2020 never came through, and two more deadlines, one in 2004 and one in 2008, were also missed. The pandemic has also slowed projects aimed at extracting more gas.
The main problem, according to Afolabi Elebiju, a Lagos-based corporate attorney who follows the energy industry, is that unauthorized flaring comes with relatively minor penalties under Nigerian law, which is often poorly enforced.
Mr. Elebiju called the flaring “a monster” in Nigeria. “The government thinks, ‘If we drive these people too hard, they will run away,” he said, referring to foreign oil companies operating in Nigeria. “But in many other countries where they are vigorous, they hold up Operators, also in their home countries. “