Nigeria Cements Methane Guidelines, and its Role as an African Climate and Clean Air Leader

by CCAC secretariat - 12 January, 2023
Nigeria is the first country in Africa to regulate methane emissions in the energy sector.

Nigeria plans to reduce emissions from its oil and gas industry, helping to slash global methane emissions and stem near-term global warming while reducing deadly air pollution. The country's new Methane Guidelines mandate that companies take swift and effective action in the industry, first by implementing leak detection and repair measures in oil and gas infrastructure. Companies must also start utilizing high destruction efficiency flares to reduce the methane that is vented or leaked. Lastly, companies must implement controls on venting devices, or replace them with zero emissions technology. 

“Implementation and operationalization of the guidelines will significantly reduce the environmental, social, and health impacts of methane and other pollutants released through gas flaring and fugitive emissions. It will also foster harmonious relations between operators and host communities,” said Ibrahim Muhammad, the Deputy Manager of Laboratory Services at the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission.

Methane is responsible for 17 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. Reducing it is one of the most powerful levers for reducing near-term climate change, which is why Nigeria is also a signatory to the Global Methane Pledge. Signatories commit to voluntary actions to contribute to a collective effort to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30 percent from 2020 levels by 2030. This has the potential to eliminate over 0.2˚C of warming by 2050. 

Methane is a key ingredient in the formation of ground-level ozone (smog), a dangerous air pollutant. If emissions were reduced by 45 per cent — a possibility this century —  it would prevent 260,000 premature deaths. The oil and gas sector is not only a major contributor, it is one of the most fertile sectors for action.

“I’ve worked on a lot of issues related to climate over the years but methane in the oil and gas sector is the easiest thing we could do on climate— it’s not rocket science, it’s plumbing,” said Jonathan Banks, Global Director of CATF’s Methane Pollution Prevention program. “A lot of the stuff that needs to be done is by someone with a wrench who needs to fix and tighten up things. It’s often not difficult stuff to do.”

By helping to mandate things like technical requirements for inspections, flare efficiency, repairs, and emissions inventory reporting, the guidelines will be a critical part of Nigeria living up to its commitment.

“The CCAC was pivotal to the development of the guidelines as they provided the support right at the drafting of the National Action Plan on SLCPs which was the first policy document that focused on methane abatement,” said Muhammad.

Nigeria is a longstanding partner of the CCAC and its climate and clean air work. Nigeria Developed the National Action Plan on Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCPs) in 2018, committing to reduce fugitive methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 50 percent by 2030. In Nigeria’s Nationally Determined Contribution — or its national commitment to climate change mitigation — Nigeria committed to reducing methane emissions by 60 percent, and achieving a net-zero target by 2060 — an ambitious goal that was raised from previous goals with the support of the CCAC.

In order to achieve these intentions, Nigeria set out to establish a baseline emissions inventory and to adopt leak detection and repair for its facilities. The CCAC supported this work in a variety of ways, including through capacity-building workshops aimed at fossil fuel methane policies. The CCAC’s webinar series connected Nigerian regulatory agencies to those in its peer countries and helped Nigerian experts and officials access important resources, such as the methane regulatory toolkit and the methane guiding principles. 

“The process that the CCAC set out has become kind of a blueprint for the oil and gas engagements that we're going to see going forward on a global basis,” said Banks. “The peer-to-peer program and similar programs are going to need to be supported in order for us to realize the emission reductions that are possible in the oil and gas space going forward. So, for me, one of the biggest achievements is really creating that template for how we can get real policy action moving forward in the oil and gas space.”

These guidelines will complement the Nigeria Energy Transition Plan, as well as the Gas Flare (Prevention of Waste and Pollution) Regulations 2018.

Nigeria faces an uphill battle when it comes to implementation and enforcement of the guidelines, given there is still a lack of expertise in the country when it comes to leak detection and repair, the benefits of methane mitigation, and measurement, reporting and verification.

Nigeria is already planning, however, strategies for overcoming these challenges. An internal capacity-building session is being planned to update officials on the new guidelines and a stakeholder workshop is being organized. The country, however, will need ongoing support to train staff on best practices in methane management and measurement, reporting, and verification. Moreover, with the help of the CCAC, Nigeria is now part of an international team committed to dramatically reducing methane emissions.

“The support provided made Nigeria appreciate the benefit of collective action on methane emission reduction and join the global methane pledge,” said Muhammad.

“Implementation and operationalization of the guidelines will significantly reduce the environmental, social, and health impacts of methane and other pollutants released through gas flaring and fugitive emissions. It will also foster harmonious relations between operators and host communities”
Ibrahim Muhammad