Nigeria’s efforts to cut its flared gas have been delayed by at least 6 weeks due to the new coronavirus outbreak, the petroleum regulator said on Wednesday.
The West African country is trying to commercialize the gas that is currently burned at its wells as waste so that it can be exported or used for power production.
Nigeria is one of the top ten gas-flaring countries in the world; it flared some 7.4 billion cubic feet in 2018, according to accounting firm PwC.
The country estimates that it loses $1 billion in revenue annually due to flaring, which also adds to extreme environmental pollution in the Niger Delta region.
But Sarki Auwalu, head of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), said the current bidding round had been delayed due to travel restrictions aimed at stemming the spread of the virus.
“What is holding (up) the programme is COVID-19. Because (the bidders) need access to the flare points…, they have to go and see (them) physically,” he said. “We had to officially extend the programme by six weeks.”
Nigeria’s gas flare commercialization programme was approved in 2016, and the DPR held a round for companies wanting to bid on the opportunity to commercialize 96 flare points in February.
Submissions for the bids were due in early April. Auwalu said some 200 companies had joined the process.