Nigeria and the hydrogen era (2)

NIGERIA’S natural gas reserves are the ninth largest, globally, and the biggest in Africa. Citing The Oil and Gas Journal, the U.S. Energy Information Agency puts proven holdings at roughly 182 trillion cubic feet. In 2012, Nigeria ranked 4th in Liquefied Natural Gas exports, accounting for over eight percent of the world total.

    “In energy terms,” writes Omosomi Omomia, in Business Day, “the quantity of natural gas in Nigeria is said to be more than twice the quantity of crude oil…Consequently, petroleum experts often describe Nigeria as a natural gas province with some oil in it”.   

     At current rates of exploitation, Omomia says, Nigeria’s gas deposits could last up to 120 years, compared with 42 for oil. Consider as well, that Nigeria also has the second highest rate of wastage, after Russia—with flared gas amounting to 10 percent of worldwide burn-offs.

     But these statistics conceal more than they reveal. In reality, both oil and gas are commercial dinosaurs, doomed for extinction. Forty years from now, the size of Nigeria’s reserves won’t interest anyone, except sitting room raconteurs and assorted mongers of trivia.

     “Today,” warned the late professor Sam Ejike Okoye, “Nigeria may be regarded as well-endowed in primary energy sources, but alas this will only be [true]… within a limited time frame. The question which our policy makers must engage sooner than later is: After crude oil, how will the country cope…?”

      Okoye, formerly a pioneering radio astronomer and a Guardian columnist, urged policy makers to prepare for the Hydrogen Era: “This inevitable energy revolution, now engaged by a few advanced countries will, before long, demand a timely and serious response from all countries developed and developing alike”.

      He made no reference to secessionists. Nevertheless, the logic of his admonition is ensnaring. After all, it is no secret, that what really fuels secessionist sentiment in the South, is mainly the pipedream of reaping oil revenue.

      But that fantasy can never play out, either within or outside Nigeria. There simply is not going to be any oil bonanza again—for secessionists or anyone else. What is needed, at this critical juncture, is for disciplined minds to explore ways of transforming Nigeria’s hydrocarbon liability into a hydrogen asset.

      I have, for many years, been trying to call attention to this challenge and prod policy makers, intellectuals and scholars into action. I suggested, in one of my earliest columns, that P.T.I. (Petroleum Training Institute), in Delta State, be upgraded to a high level Energy Think Tank and Research Centre.

     More recently, I have implored Government to hold a Three-Phased Seminar on the Energy Revolution—in which scholars, scientists, administrators, intellectuals and policy makers from across Africa, and around the world, converge and exchange ideas.

     These Energy Seminars would explore the political, economic, scientific and strategic implications of: (a) The Hydrogen Economy; (b) Nuclear Fusion; and (c) Space-Based solar energy. Hopefully, the resulting exhaustive analysis would serve as a guide and a resource for Government.

     The Seminars will attract positive attention, internationally: And enhance Nigeria’s status in the sub-region, at a time when its image is being bashed severely.

     Nigeria’s pre-eminence has ebbed somewhat, since the oil-boom days. Many African countries now have petroleum. So Nigeria’s leadership role needs to be re-defined and re-focused.          

     Even without seminar input though, certain courses of action suggest themselves. One is that Nigeria needs to start preparing, as quickly as possible–one way or the other–for participation in the Hydrogen Economy.

     A good start is to usher Africa into IPHE (International Partnership for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in the Economy) and take the continental lead as well, in collaborating with the International Energy Agency’s Hydrogen Implementing Agreement.

     Still another strategic initiative is exploratory talks with the World Nuclear Association (WNA), whose experts believe atomic reactors will provide much of the power, for processing natural gas into hydrogen.

      WNA’s prognosis is fortuitous, since Nigeria already has an atomic reactor programme–which could, and should, be reconfigured, with the Hydrogen Era in mind.

    In any case, continued indifference and inaction is not an option. Neither is turning back, to the halcyon days when hydrocarbon fuels reigned supreme. Those days are gone forever.

     This is Toyota’s symbolic message, in christening its new hydrogen-powered car “Mirai”—a name which evokes, in Japanese, notions of the future Nigeria must face.

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