Nigeria’s federal government last week revealed plans to add just 340 megawatts effective gas-fired generation capacity to the grid this year.
Power minister Babatunde Fashola told a press briefing June 8 that the substation at the Afam gas-fired power plant in Rivers State is to be rehabilitated to increase the plant’s capacity to 0.34 gigawatts after funding was found to fix faulty turbines and enable gas companies to supply gas to its turbines.
Nigeria’s installed power generation capacity is about 12 GW. But little over one-third of that (4 GW that is mostly gas-fired, but with some hydro units) is able to generate on a regular basis.
This is a cause of frustration to Nigeria’s over 150mn people – many of whom still lack any access to power — given that, at 5.3 trillion m3 at end-2016, the country has the 10th largest natural gas reserves in the world, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2017 released last week.
Government officials, gas producers and distribution companies point the finger at each other when it comes to the blame for the country’s inability to produce gas-fired electricity. Gas shortages, under-investment in power transmission cables, the inability of generation companies to pay for gas, and debts owed to generation companies have all been highlighted as mitigating factors. Power supplies to consumers were particularly low in January 2017 when gas-fired plants were short of fuel and hydro units were suffering from drought. Gas supplies to power plants though improved in March and since.
Fashola said May 15 2017 that specific electricity customers can now purchase power directly from generation companies, under Section 27 of the 2005 Electric Power Sector Reform Act. But with irregular power supplies, it’s unclear how this legal provision can help.
Total has spoken in the past about investing in sub-Saharan power generation. Unlike Eni and Shell, it has no generation joint venture plants in Nigeria. The country’s minister of state for petroleum resources Ibe Kachikwu met local Total executives June 15 to propose possible plans for joint ventures in this sector but as yet there’s been no commitment.
Dada Thomas, president of the Nigerian Gas Association and CEO of local independent Frontier Oil, believes such collaboration between private firms, gas producers and power distributors can help: “The gas to power chain is made up of many different links and if one of them is not functioning properly, then the rest are affected as well.”
“Many plants lack functioning turbines, some facilities run on one out of three of their installed turbines. Some pipelines feeding power plants are either incomplete or not maintained, meaning they cannot run at full capacity,” added Thomas.
Nigeria’s 2010 Roadmap for Power Sector Reform set a goal of 20 GW gas-fired generation by 2020. But successive administrations, and attacks by Niger Delta militants on infrastructure, have caused foreign investment appetite to dwindle and the target now looks unfeasible.