Understanding Methane Emissions: How Nigeria Leads Methane Reduction in Africa.

Clean Technology Hub
8 min readMar 26, 2024


  • Odion Ibadin

Methane (CH4) is the second most significant contributor to climate change after carbon dioxide (CO2), accounting for 30% of the current global warming. Methane is 84 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, although it is much less common in the atmosphere. However, its average lifespan in the atmosphere is only about 12 years. This indicates that, despite its relatively small volume, it may hold onto heat far more effectively than CO2, greatly contributing to global warming. It also suggests that taking immediate action to reduce emissions of anthropogenic methane might significantly halt global warming before 2050.

Representational Image: Getty Images

Methane Reduction Observations at COP28

Several companies committed to reducing their methane emissions last year at COP28. Fifty firms, representing forty percent of the world’s oil production, pledged to eliminate their methane emissions by 2050 as part of the Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter. Additionally, they pledged to stop flaring by 2030. Instead of capturing stored methane, oil wells flare it out of compliance with rules, safety concerns, or economic considerations. The World Bank announced the establishment of a $250 million trust fund to assist industries in avoiding flaring, but for the time being, big oil and gas companies like Exxon Mobil and Chevron declined to contribute.

Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil and gas producer, recently made news by taking significant steps to reduce methane emissions in the sector. Oil and gas methane constitutes 37% of human-generated methane emissions, but can be reduced at low or negative costs.

What is Methane?

Methane has been defined as a colourless, flammable gas that has no odor. It is mostly used as a fuel to generate light and heat, as well as for organic chemical production. It is commonly found in septic tanks, landfills, marshes, and sewers and can be formed by the decomposition of natural materials and animal dung, especially cattle. Simply put, methane is the hot gas that comes out of a compressed dustbin or pit toilet. Additionally, methane can be found in coal gas. Methane pockets naturally occur below the surface. Methane can be utilised in houses to power appliances like clothes dryers, stoves, and water heaters. For this reason, the Lagos State government is attempting to extract and use methane from its landfills and dumpsites.

40% of the methane in today’s atmosphere originates from nature, while 60% is ‘anthropogenic’, indicating it is the product of human-related pollution. The agricultural sector is the single-largest human-driven source of methane with 32% contribution from animal grazing for meat. It is noteworthy that energy is a major contributor to anthropogenic methane emissions, along with the waste and agriculture. Approximately 20% of global methane emissions are attributed to the energy sector, which includes the extraction, transportation, distribution, and use of coal, gas, and oil. Standard natural gas contains 70–90% methane. As such, methane is not only harmful to the ecosystem but also causes local air pollution and contributes to ozone creation. This poses a considerable risk to human health due to its excessive levels in the atmosphere.

Further, methane remains in the atmosphere for around ten years, whereas carbon dioxide (the primary greenhouse gas) lasts hundreds of years. This is why cutting methane emissions is vital and has a direct impact on global warming.

Nigeria’s Recent Development on Reducing Methane Emissions

According to the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) 2022 accounts, the annual methane emissions in Africa (excluding livestock) are 4,7 million metric tonnes of CH4, equivalent to 160 million metric tonnes of CO2e. Oil and gas emissions are the highest (48%), followed by waste (35%), wastewater (16%), and coal (1%). The International Energy Agency has reported that existing technology may reduce methane emissions from fossil fuel operations by roughly 70%, with about 40% coming at no cost. A substantial amount of these emissions are caused by compressor leaks along pipelines and destructive and overused techniques of flaring and venting, which involve burning extra natural gas, sometimes inefficiently, or releasing it into the atmosphere.

Although Nigeria supports the World Bank’s Zero Routine Flaring by 2030 initiative and is a member of the Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership, in 2020 she ranked sixth globally due to the 7.2 billion cubic metres of gas flared. This was a considerable increase from the 70% decrease in natural gas flaring in Nigeria in 2000. Nevertheless, Nigeria has taken the lead in adopting regulations to reduce harmful emissions from the oil and gas industry, including methane emissions.

In 2019, the Clean Air Task Force began working with Nigeria, forming a collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Environment and the oil and gas regulator. As a result, in 2021, Nigeria added a specific methane target for the oil and gas industry in its Nationally Determined Contributions, with a goal of a 60% reduction in methane emissions in the sector. The Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) recently released the Nigerian methane guidelines, which aim at decreasing emissions in the upstream oil and gas industry. The guidelines were created to reduce environmental and social impacts, prevent waste of natural resources, and help Nigeria meet its emissions mitigation and reduction targets, which include eliminating routine gas flaring by 2030 and reducing fugitive methane emissions/leakages from oil and gas operations by 60% by 2031.

The Guidelines As Established

  1. Greenhouse Gases Management Plans: Within six months of the law’s implementation, operators must create and submit GHG management plans that include an inventory of emission sources, accounting procedures, and strategies and timetables for achieving net-zero emissions.
  2. Emissions Monitoring and Inspection Requirements:
  • Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR): Using optical gas imaging, laser beam technology, or other technology approved by the Commission, LDAR inspections must be carried out on a regular basis. The frequency of inspections should be one during the first year of the Guidelines’ implementation, two during the second year, and four during the third and subsequent years. After they are identified, large leaks should be fixed in 5 working days and tiny leaks in 14 working days. Along with routine inspection reports, operators must document and submit the technical specifications of their LDAR equipment. Following completion, the operator will get a certificate of confirmation from the Commission, which will oversee compliance.
  • Flare Requirements: Flares that are discovered to be unlit, releasing gases must be fixed within 48 hours. Flare tips that are sputtering or smoking must be replaced within two years of the Guidelines’ adoption; after that, sputtering or smoking flares must be fixed within 60 days of inspection.
  1. Operational and Equipment Standards:
  • Cold venting is not permitted unless an operator is granted a waiver due to operational requirements.
  • Flare efficiency should achieve a design destruction removal efficiency (DRE) of at least 98%.
  • Pneumatic Controllers: Natural gas-powered controllers should be replaced with zero-bleed controllers powered by electricity or instrument air, and emissions must be channeled to a vapor recovery system.
  • Pneumatic Pumps: Either switch to electric pumps for natural gas venting pumps, or direct emissions into a vapor recovery system.
  • Centrifugal compressor seals: It is recommended that operators direct the emissions from oil degassing units towards a combustion device or vapor recovery system.
  • Reciprocating Compressor Rod-Packing: Emissions should be diverted from compressor vents and regulated by replacing the rod packing or installing an emissions collection device.
  • Glycol dehydrators: vents from any flash separator or flash tank on a glycol natural gas dehydrator must reduce uncontrolled actual emissions by at least 95% on a rolling 12-month basis using a condenser or air pollution control equipment.
  • Liquid Storage Tanks (Flash Gas, Working, and Breathing Losses): Operators must direct emissions to a vapor recovery system or combustion equipment.

Challenges with Nigeria’s Methane Reduction Efforts

In 2022, Nigeria emitted about 1,957 kilotons (kt) or more of methane, yet, it has been suggested that 1,555 kt of this could have been avoided if the country had followed established policies in the oil and gas sector.

According to Datatphye another 234 kt of methane emissions may have been avoided with technology standards such as direct air capture. Using Leak Detection and Repair,(192 kt) of methane would have been prevented from being emitted into the atmosphere. While achieving net zero methane emissions is an extended process including strategic phases, it appears that only 402 kt, or 20.54 percent of the total emissions, would have been released if these regulations had been properly implemented as indicated by the above figure.

In addition, there is continuous criticism of the flawed way the top oil and gas industry calculate their emissions which could be misleading and lead to greenwashing. For Instance, Shell had published in 2022 that there was a decrease in total methane emissions in Nigeria from its operation from 50,000 metric tons in 2021 to 40,000 metric tons in 2022, a 27 percent reduction. It was also reported that they met their emission target to keep methane emission intensity below 0.2 per cent.

This might seem like a significant step but industry experts have claimed that the data could be false. According to Dominic Watson, a methene expert at Environmental Defense Fund noted that, given the sector, “There is virtually no direct measurement happening at oil and gas extraction sites or infrastructure including pipelines” Ayodele Oni, an oil and gas expert and member of the legal advisory team for Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), stated that all identified gas flare points in Nigeria are part of the commercialization programme, and that compliance with it is required for companies and producers to obtain or renew mining and operating permits. He stated that reported gas flaring in Shell decreased by 80 percent between 2010 and 2019. Mr. Oni explained that this was due to the IOC’s investment in gas-gathering facilities in Aloma, Adibawa, and Otumar.

A BBC investigation using World Bank flare-tracking satellite data, revealed millions of tonnes of unreported emissions from gas flaring were found at oil sites operated by Shell, ExxonMobil, and other majors. Recently, the company became an example of fossil fuel major backsliding on climate commitments as they announced that it will be changing their carbon reduction targets and scrapping its 2035 objective. In essence, in the aspect of protecting the environment and health of humans, these reports need to be more transparent. These major oil companies also may be faced with stricter compliance measures to prevent them from backtracking on their commitments.

Lastly, Nigeria is at a disadvantage 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.


Finally, the need to reduce methane emission in Nigeria is critical since it contributes to the formation of ozone which depreciates the air quality in the environment, harms the nature of animal health, reduces agricultural production and leads to premature mortality rates in humans. Hence, lowering atmospheric methane levels can help to reduce these impacts. The impact of global warming can be delayed by increasing awareness and capacity building training for Nigerians that focus not only on the reduction of methane in the oil and gas sector, but also on anthropogenic methane emissions.

Odion Ibadin is Associate, Environment and Climate Action at Clean Technology Hub.



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