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The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation adopts the use of Horizontal Directional Drilling technology to bury crude oil and petroleum products pipelines across the country as the new strategy to curb the activities of vandals and increase gas supply.

By Pita Ochai

In its effort to ensure sufficient supply of gas in the country, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has deployed some mechanisms to frustrate the activities of vandals of gas pipelines. The corporation has adopted the use of Horizontal Directional Drilling, (HDD) technology, to bury crude oil and petroleum products pipelines across the country. The technology, which is the latest in the industry, would bury the pipelines very deep below the surface.

Andrew Yakubu, the Group Managing Director of NNPC, blamed vandals for the gas shortages in the country, which also resulted in the recent drop in the generation of electricity. According to him, over 30 per cent of the installed gas supply leaked due to pipeline vandalism. He noted that the loss was equivalent to the gas requirement to generate about 1,600MW of electricity, while about N800 million was spent recently to repair damaged gas pipelines. The pipelines affected include the Escravos-Warri stretch of the Escravos Lagos Pipeline System and the Trans-Forcados crude pipeline.

Yakubu assured that the completion of the Omoku and Alaoji NIPP power plants will further boost generation capacity, as the plants have available gas feedstock upon their completion.

The destruction of pipelines has affected gas supply to the power thermal stations across Nigeria which denies electricity consumers steady power supply. The trend has become a major encumbrance for the Gas-to-Power initiatives of the Federal Government. However, some government officials have attributed the scenario to the handiwork of the enemies of the government trying to sabotage its reforms agenda in the power sector.

The problem of epileptic power has become a recurring decimal in Nigeria. Before thermal plants became the fad, the reason for the very low supply of electricity was attributed to the Kainji Dam and its turbines. It was either that the water level was too high or too low for the proper functioning of the turbines depending on the season of the year.

And even with the combined thermal and turbine stations, the power generation still remains in abysmal condition. The supply of electricity has dropped to an all-time low of less than 3,000 MW serving about 170 million population together with their domestic and industrial requirements estimated at a minimum of 40,000MW.

The development remains a big challenge for the management of the NNPC which is charged with the responsibility of crude oil, gas and petroleum products pipelines administration in Nigeria.

However, as the NNPC steps up efforts to address the problem of gas supply, Professor Chinedu Nebo, the Minister of Power, has charged all gas companies operating in the country to find a lasting solution to the persistent shortage of the product so as to energise the power plants. Nebo, who spoke at a forum aimed at identifying and resolving the causes of the incessant interruption of gas to the electricity plants, urged stakeholders to see the power issue as national emergency. He noted that vandalism has only worsened the existing situation, wherein government has been doing its best to ensure full utilisation of the nation’s abundant gas resources.

According to him, enormous resources are involved in the deployment of heavy duty equipment, and the difficult terrain is one of the reasons for delay in effecting repairs on the damaged pipelines. While also blaming pipeline vandalism for the existing wide gap between the installed capacity and the actual power generation, the minister said; “we have the capacity to generate over 6,000MW but sadly we now produce a little over 4,000MW, this is not the case in other climes.”

Emphasizing the importance of energy in the socio-economic life of the nation, Nebo said: “We want the economy to be revamped. This magic can only be made manifest if we are able to produce enough power that will drive a double digit growth.” He challenged stakeholders to brace-up to the unfortunate scenario created by the abysmal low-level of power generation in Nigeria when compared with South Africa and Brazil.

The spate of vandalism of pipelines and electricity facilities has prompted the new power investors to advocate for an anti-theft legislation to prosecute electricity vandals and customers who attack utility personnel. The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Enugu Electricity Distribution Company, Mr. Robert Dickerman, recently called on the Federal Government to address the problems of inadequate gas supply to the plants and pipelines vandalism hindering power generation in the country.

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