Saturday, June 4, 2011

Nigeria’s oil and gas – leadership gap

Business Day
3 June 2011

Godwin J. Igwe    . .
As citizens, we are all stakeholders in the fate of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry. For more than four decades, our leaders and their appointees have concentrated on the upstream sector (i.e. crude oil extraction and marketing), hence neglecting the downstream sector (refined products and petrochemicals). This is a huge leadership gap.

Although Nigeria is a major oil producer and exporter, the economic benefits of these natural resources have not been shared with most of its large indigenous populations. And, for the past 40 years, oil and gas exploration, drilling and pipelines have caused a series of environmental and health problems.

Crude oil has little or limited use until processed into refined or petrochemical products. Petroleum refining is the process of separating the many compounds present in crude oil by boiling the crude at different temperatures and using advanced methods to further process the crude into products such as gasoline, diesel fuel, and heating oil. The chemistry of hydrocarbons is the principle used in this process: the longer the carbon chain, the higher the temperature at which the compounds will boil.

Generally, crude petroleum is heated and changed into a gas. The hot gases are passed into the bottom of a distillation column and become cooler as they move up the height of the column. As the gases cool below their boiling point, they condense into a liquid. The liquids are then drawn off the distilling column at specific heights, ranging from heavy residuals at the bottom, raw diesel fuels in the mid-sections, and raw gasoline at the top. These raw fractions are then processed further to make several different finished products.

This proposal will show that we could do better if the global expertise of our chemical engineers and scientists are fully exploited. I will demonstrate this statement with the following simple example.

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