L-R; Engr. Charles Osezua, Austin Avuru, Gbite Adeniji, Paul Loomis and Eddy Van Den Broeke at the Roundtable in Lagos.
It was a busy day in Lagos as key factors in the gas sector deliberated on issues pertaining to gas development in a Roundtable Forum. The Roundtable was organized by The Business Year and co-promoted by Nigeria’s foremost Petroleum Club (PC).
Speaking on a paper titled “Gas for Development: An Alternative Concept”, Dr. Ebi Omatsola, a veteran in Nigeria’s oil industry, noted that there is need to set target dates to meet power availability to Nigerian households and businesses while gas storage facilities should be encouraged and enhanced at least ninety days capacity at every power plant for the security of supply.
Managing Director of Seplat Petroleum Development Company, Dr. Austin Avuru maintained that the issues bothering gas have to do with challenges hence the sector should be liberalised before it can move forward. The company has also boost gas reserve in the country through its base in Oben.
Senior Technical Adviser to the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Upstream Gas, Adegbite Adeniji reiterated government’s efforts to implement the gas policy which the present administration is driving so as to give gas its rightful place in the country. It will be recalled that the Gas Master Plan is part of the project the government is advancing for gas to be rejuvenated. Adeniji revealed that government has put structures that will enhance gas in the country to support power as well. It has deregulated the petroleum sector except for Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).
During the interactive session, stakeholders who contributed opined that power plays prominent role in the country while the sector needs development and a platform is necessary to get people together to lobby the government so as to calvanised it. The gas sector in Nigeria also needs a driving force that will champion it while operators need virile voice with a common front to forge ahead. They advocated that the huge debt in power sector should be addressed so that gas operators across the country will not be affected due to fund. Debt impedes success in the power industry with multiplier effect on gas.
Responding to stakeholders concerns that the government might not have put in enough efforts on gas in the country, representing the Chairman of PC at the Roundtable Forum, Engineer Charles Osezua, made it known that in the 80’s a lot of work was done on gas, the first integrated effort to develop gas was seen as vehicle to promote development. Osezua appraised the panelists as he explained that natural gas is a catalyst for development.
He stated further that gas is a fuel that is effectively used by some nations to plan and stay by it to develop their economy. Nigeria made attempt to develop its gas infrastructure across the country but by May 1989, the Supreme Military Council which was the highest organ of government then, passed the first policy on gas and later it was reversed because a former Minister of Power, Industry and Steel put spanners in the works as he told the government that there was no money for the ministry to pay for gas.
The gas policy that was developed then was market driven because the industrial market was in focus including where gas was inconvertible for good storage. Osezua disclosed that he stayed in London using Shell model to progress gas sector in Nigeria. “We can’t develop unless we have commercial hub, prices that will encourage investment and policy consistency with supply security will be beneficial, Osezua added.”
He emphasised that in Gas Link, his first venture in the downstream was to develop gas since there was supply security. He decried challenges such as operational efficiency that is still bedeviling the industry, surprisingly, “The north has a huge potential market, there were a lot of industries when we did our survey, a lot of the industries have died but they can be resuscitated.” Similarly in “Lagos, a lot of industries that were surveyed as potential market for gas had also died but with the “Right of Way, we will resuscitate those industries.”
Hopefully, the Roundtable is expected to change the tide of the sector which is seen as the game changer and alternative to oil.