‘Oil and gas industry in Nigeria struggling to meet the challenges of environmental protection’

USA-based graduate of Electrical Engineering from the University of Lagos, and a global capital sales manager for a leading international oil and gas service company in Houston, USA, Abayomi Jewesimi, has said that the oil and gas industry in Nigeria struggles to meet the challenges of providing environmental protection.

Jewesimi, in an interview with the Nigerian Tribune on the best practices in the nation’s oil and gas sector, noted that while the exploitation of oil and gas reserves had not been without some ecological side effects including oil spills, and air and water pollution, drilling fluids and drill cuttings remained the largest waste streams generated in global drilling operations and called on the Nigerian regulators of the industry to “ensure minimal damage is done to the environment and protect marine life offshore as these protections are not limited to Nigeria; most oil and gas countries have similar legislation and regulations to protect the environment.

“The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), is the regulator of the oil and gas industry in Nigeria. The Environmental Guidelines and Standards for the Petroleum Industry in Nigeria, EGASPIN, outlines environmental and safety standards that must be complied with by oil operators. The DPR evaluates and monitors the discharges into the environment from exploration, production, terminal operations, hydrocarbon processing, oil transportation, and marketing operations. Since 1991, the EGASPIN has been updated and revised to be at par with international best practices and advancements in drilling waste management technology, including zero discharge for inland and offshore shallow waters,” he noted.

Jewesimi added that in the “zero-discharge zones, discharge is prohibited of whole and spent drilling fluid, drill cuttings, deck drainage, and well treatment waste. Discharges are permitted where the distance from the shoreline is greater than 12 nautical miles or the water depth greater than 200 feet under certain conditions. Water-based drilling fluids and cuttings discharge is allowed if the fluid and cuttings pass the sheen test and discharge is approved by DPR.”

Speaking on the regulation of the oil and gas industry in Nigeria, compared with other African countries, he lamented that some of the newer oil-producing countries in West Africa “do not have regulations. In those countries, operator discretion and corporate global standards drive the present practices,” adding that with the introduction “of non-aqueous drilling fluids offshore, regulations have become more stringent, prompting the industry to come up with new technology that enhances the efficiency of solids-removal equipment.”

Jewesimi, however, expressed optimism that the future of the Nigerian oil and gas is bright as the “drilling industry has already made lots of progress with the development of new drilling fluid systems that are more environmentally friendly,” adding that the use of diesel-based mud had been stopped offshore and greatly reduced onshore.

“The industry will continue to engage with regulators and industry stakeholders to create awareness on best practices and develop and implement new technology to move the industry in the direction of greater safety and protection of the environment,” he assured.

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