NGA: DEVELOPING TALENTS TO MOVE THE INDUSTRY FORWARD

The Nigerian Gas Association is the apex organization representing numerous stakeholders in the gas sector within the Nigerian Oil & Gas Industry, with the vision of effectively advancing the role of Nigerian Natural Gas as the preferred energy source. In this interview, Ed Ubong, President, Nigerian Gas Association {NGA} speakswith Carolyn Isaacon sundry issues of concern in the sector andthematic areas of concentration critical to realizing the objectives of the ‘Decade of Gas’ among others.

As President, Nigerian Gas Association, how do you plan to strengthen and develop the gas sector in terms of expansion of the economy through employment?

The Nigerian Gas Association is collaborating with the government and its industry partners to unlock the potential in the gas value chain and create an enabling environment for Nigerian gas sector to thrive. This will yield a myriad of economic opportunities including employment.

The NGA is working with its stakeholders to accelerate gas sector development across seven thematic areas: unlocking the domestic gas to power value chain; accelerating infrastructure development including virtual pipelines; driving gas based industrialization; deepening domestic LPG penetration, building a stable regulatory environment anchored on a willing buyer-willing seller pricing regime; growing the export and regional gas market,  building local capacity/content  for contractors and professionals in the gas sector.

These seven thematic areas are critical to realizing the objectives of the ‘Decade of Gas’ and need to be pulled together in a Nigeria Decade of Gas Masterplan (NDGMP) that provides a roadmap that allows Nigeria utilize its huge gas resources for its socio-economic development

What technologies or ideas has the gas sector put in place to ensure that we are able to get a proper value chain for the benefit of the economy especially looking at the gas sector beyond just Liquefied Natural Gas?

We know that in Nigeria the LNG export gas market has provided significant revenues for Government and is more developed than the domestic gas market. It is therefore imperative that we deepen the domestic gas value chain to increase domestic gas production and consumption. Most of the gas in Nigeria is produced in the East whilst the largest demand centers are in the West and North, so we need infrastructure to bridge the supply and demand gaps and increase gas consumption. We are seeing increasing infrastructure development with OB3, ELPS 2 and AKK but these pipeline constructions take time. In the interim, we need to deploy innovative solutions to connect the existing local supply and demand. This has led to increasing use of virtual pipeline infrastructure (CNG, Mini LNG) to meet this demand in the short term before the pipeline infrastructure is available. This has also enabled us to supply gas to areas that are off grid thereby creating new markets for gas in Nigeria.

What about the technical expansion of knowledge base for managing the gas sector, are we going to have a situation where more of the local content will be involved in developing the gas sector, unlike the oil sector where expatriates dominated.

I believe the days of having expatriates dominate the oil and gas industry are behind us. We will all agree that the oil sector went through a bit of a learning curve but if you look at the oil industry in Nigeria today, over 90% of workers are Nigerian staff. As a result of the collaboration between Nigerian Content Development &Monitoring Board {NCDMB} and the IOC’s to ensure knowledge transfer and capacity development, we have been able to develop seasoned oil industry professionals in Nigeria.

The Nigerian Gas Association is also focused on building human capacity and developing talent to move this industry forward. As we look forward to developing a gas-based economy in Nigeria, one of the NGA’s priorities is ensuring that we have skilled and competent individuals to lead and accelerate this transition. The skillsets required in oil production and gas production/distribution are quite different so the NGA is looking at how we can retool the seasoned oil professionals for gas sector delivery. In this vein, we are seeking to collaborate with various stakeholders to deliver training programs that will build the required technical skillset for gas sector development. We are confident that most of the talent required for this transition to a gas-based economy, will come from Nigeria.

The PIB was recently passed and it has raised more dust. Can you just prospect what you could see as the good, the bad and the ugly of the bill?

The industry has been anticipating this moment for a long time so it is great news that the PIB has made progress through the national assembly and has been sent in for executive assent. Engagements with key stakeholders have to be continued as the bill seeks to address numerous areas of concern including governance, funding, pricing, royalties and taxes, community development, environmental management and much more.  Overall, we need a PIB that creates an enabling framework and environment to support gas sector investment and development.

Can you talk a little on your policy thrust and the plans for gas in the West African sub region?

There is a need for additional investment to further develop infrastructure along the gas value chain so to extend the gas networks and reach countries in West Africa. There is clear demand for gas with roughly 350 million people across the ECOWAS states and there are vast gas resources across the sub-region. We, however, need to connect the supply and demand and the cheapest way to achieve this is through pipelines. We have the West African Gas Pipeline system (WAGP) which transports natural gas between Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Ghana. We would like to see regular supply on the line, increased capacity in the system as well as expansion of this infrastructure to other parts of the West African sub-region. Apart from gas pipeline infrastructure, we also have to develop linkages for finished products and raw materials in the West African market via roads, seaports, rails and by air freight.

Finally, As the President, Nigerian Gas Association, what does the “Decade Of Gas” as declared by President Buhari mean to you and how will it benefit the common man?

The declaration of 2021-2030 as the “decade of gas” is the realization by the Nigerian Government that Nigeria is, indeed, a gas nation whose gas production and consumption needs to be accelerated. For me, I believe the most important indicator of success for the average Nigerian citizen will be reliable electricity/power supply. Currently, 85 million Nigerians do not have access to grid electricity; therefore we must unlock the challenges in the gas to power value chain to improve access to energy for Nigerians. This will require pragmatic steps to address structural issues across the on-grid value chain ranging from interruptions in gas supply, transmission grid losses and outages, inadequate metering infrastructure, illegal connections. We must also ensure payment of outstanding gas and power invoice arrears and securitize current and future revenues. To the common man, access to energy will be a key success factor for the ‘Decade of Gas’.

Harnessing our vast gas resources is key to development of the country. Natural gas gives us the ability to lift millions out of energy poverty, giving people the power to improve their physical health, wellbeing and standard of living. It also gives us a pathway to economic growth and development, not only through direct exploration and trading of gas resources but by providing reliable power supply for the manufacturing and industrial sectors which are the major growth engines for developing economies.

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