Oil prices yesterday maintained their upswing, hitting their highest in about 13 months on the back of vaccine rollouts expected to increase demand even as producers kept supply reined in.
Global benchmark, Brent Crude, was up 88 cents, or 1.4 per cent, at $63.31 a barrel after climbing to a significant high of $63.76, the highest since January 22, 2020.
Also, US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures gained $1.14, or two per cent, to $60.61 a barrel, touching $60.95, its highest since January 8 last year.
The upswing in oil prices came as the federal government yesterday unfolded plans to stop gas flaring in the next four years.
Oil prices have rallied over recent weeks as supplies tighten, due largely to production cuts from the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allied producers in the group OPEC+.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said the global oil market was on a recovery path and the oil price this year could average $45-$60 per barrel.
“We’ve seen low volatility in the past few months. This means the market is balanced and the prices we are seeing today are in line with the market situation,” Novak was quoted as saying.
Also, the fears of heightened tensions in the Middle East prompted fresh buying, while hopes that a United States stimulus and an easing of lockdowns will buoy fuel demand.
The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said late on Sunday it intercepted and destroyed an explosive-laden drone fired by the Iran-aligned Houthi group toward the kingdom, state TV reported, raising fears of fresh Middle East tensions.
For the first time in about a year, Brent futures hit $60.04 a barrel on February 8, a development that was last experienced by the global oil market on February 20, 2020.
However, rising international oil prices have heightened tension in Nigeria amidst warnings from labour and other groups that the federal government, which has deregulated the downstream sector of the petroleum industry, should not hike the pump price of petrol.
On March 19, 2020, the federal government said it had adopted a price modulation system whereby pump price would be adjusted to reflect price movement in the international crude oil market.
Last week the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, had asked Nigerians to prepare for the economic pains that could come with an increase in petrol price.
He had stated that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) could not continue to bear the cost of under-recovery or subsidy, adding that while government revenue had improved, prompted by the rise in crude oil price, it could not be frittered on subsidy payment.
FG Sets Four-year Target to Eliminate Gas Flaring
The federal government yesterday unfolded plans to stop gas flaring in the next four years.
Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva, at a public hearing on “Need to End Gas Flaring in Nigeria and Harness Associated Gas in Nigeria organised by the House of Representatives Joint Committee on Gas Resources, Environment and Climate Change, said in Abuja that Nigeria would join the global community in achieving the complete elimination of gas flaring by 2025.
He told the gathering that his ministry took the issue of gas flaring seriously and was working hard to stop it.
He, however, stated that Nigeria has so far reduced gas flaring to eight per cent.
“We believe, with all the programmes lined up, that we are on course to achieve complete elimination of gas flaring by 2025. We take the issue of gas flaring in the ministry very seriously,” Sylva said.
Corroborating Sylva’s statement, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Group Managing Director, Mr. Mele Kyari, said in his presentation that the corporation was executing some projects to eliminate gas flaring.
Kyari cautioned against increasing the flaring penalty, saying that it is better to create commercial terms that will enable companies to invest in the flare which can be converted into money.
”Two things must happen: one is to put the enabling infrastructure, which we are doing immensely. We are building major trunklines that will receive the flared gas that you are seeing today. We are connecting most parts of this country to the gas network so that people can convert this gas to power industries and they are all within sight.
Just to put it in perspective, by the end of March, we have what we will call the quarry cluster for flared gas.
It makes about 200 million cups of gas. By the end of March, this will vanish because once we end connecting all the lines, automatically, it goes away.
”No matter how many penalties you put, if the cost of the penalty is cheaper than developing, people will continue to flare and pay the penalty. You can raise the penalty to any number and what it does is that it will completely make the people not to invest in anything,” he stated.
In his keynote address, the Chairman, Joint Committee of the House on Gas Resources, Environment and Climate Change Committees, Hon. Mutu Nicholas, stated that Nigeria loses over $750 million in annual revenue from flared gas.
Nicholas explained that the gas that is being flared is the feedstock for other industries, which if properly harnessed would stimulate economic growth, create jobs, provide income for midstream companies and earn revenue for government through taxes.
He lamented that efforts by the federal government to stop gas flaring have been inadequate and ineffective since 1979 when Nigeria made the first legislative attempt to address the problem.
He said: ”Gas flare is a malady that we must work together to eliminate at the shortest time possible because of its adverse effects on the environment and socio-economic well-being of the people of Niger Delta region as well as on the fiscal measures of the federal government. At current estimates by Price Water House Coopers (PwC), Nigeria loses over $750 million in annual revenue from flared gas.
”Zero-flare gas deadlines have routinely shifted to future dates. We thus commend the government for the 2018 gas flare regulation, which imposes the penalty of $2 per million standard cubic feet (MMSCF) of gas flared. Still, we would like to stress the need for compliance with the provisions of the penalty regime. Since the gas flare regulation was released in 2018, this committee has received reports on flare volume discrepancies.”
Earlier, while declaring the event open, the Speaker of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, had said though there had been many unfruitful conversations about achieving the objective, the House was committed to changing the narrative.
According to him, this will be done through legislative action such as bills and oversight function.
He said: ”The conversation about gas flaring in Nigeria has been going on for a long time. “Unfortunately, those conversations have not yielded the desired results. We have not managed to end the environmental damage that results from gas flaring and we are still deprived of the economic benefits of full utilisation of gas resources in our country. In this 9th House of Representatives, we intend to do everything we can to change this narrative.”
The President of Host Communities, Chief Benjamin Tamaranebi, in his presentation, apologised for the fight that broke out last month at the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) public hearing.
Tamaranebi while describing the fight as a calculated attempt to stop the voice of the ordinary host communities, lamented that they are suffering from the emission of poisonous substances into their environment, by the oil and gas industry.