Two renowned environmentalists Rev Nnimmo Bassey and Alagoa Morris have endorsed plans by the federal government to lower permissible sulphur levels in imported fuels
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had on March 13 announced that starting July it will cut down sulphur levels in imported petrol and diesel.
Mr Anibor O. Kragha, NNPC’s chief operating officer of refineries and petrochemicals announced the development during a presentation to the African Refiners Association (ARA) Conference in South Africa.
The environmentalists who spoke in Yenagoa on Monday noted that the proposed regulation would reduce the emission of sulphur, a toxic element into the environment.
According to NNPC, the new limit of sulphur in diesel will be reduced from 3,000 parts per million (ppm), to 50 ppm, by July 1,2018
The sulphur cut in Petrol would be from 1,000 ppm to 300 ppm from October 2018
Nigeria plans a further cut to 150 ppm by October 1, 2019..
Bassey a National Honour recipient of Member of Order of Federal Republic (MFR) for environmental activism however said that there was an urgent need for the country to speed in the global race for cleaner fuels.
According to the environmentalist, the proposed sulphur content cut n fuels is coming behind a July 2017 target by the country as part of a United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) campaign.
“It is sad that we are lagging behind other countries and regions in producing or importing cleaner petroleum product.
“It has been clear over time that producers and importers would go for the cheapest products available in order to maximize profits.
“The lack of policy coherence between government agencies make this sort of situation inescapable, there should be collaboration and synergy amongst government agencies for the overall good of the country,” Bassey said.
He noted that the Standards Organisation (SON) had set the fuel emission standards in 2017 but the Directorate of Petroleum Resources (DPR) failsed to update its own specifications.
“When this type of lapse happens, the marketers and racketeers will take the cheap route and wouldn’t give a damn about the impact on the health of the people.
“It is regrettable that while the world is moving to clean energy, including by shifting to electric cars, in Nigeria we are showing scant urgency in even making dirty energy a little bit less dirty.
“Unfortunately, even this little step may offer a platform for an increase in pump price of the products,” Bassey said.
Morris, Head of Field Operations at Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth ,Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) noted that it was time to increase local refining capacity as Nigerian crude grades had very low sulphur content.
According to him Nigeria crude is sought after by foreign refineries who refer to Nigerian crude streams as ‘sweet and light’ due to its ease of refining and very low sulphur content.
He said that it was an irony that Nigeria is exporting the fine, sweet crude to others countries and importing heavy, bitter products.
“Yes,if ours is Sweet and light due to the Sulphur content, definitely, the imported one with so much sulphur should be seen as bitter and heavy product.
“And, even when the world is moving away from fossil fuels, we can still see that within the fossil fuel sources; the experts still recognise that the heavier crude oil products are more injurious to our health and the Climate Change phenomenon.
“Nigeria is still holding on tenaciously to this more harmful source of fossil fuel.
“ It is, however,interesting to note that Ghana met up with the 2017 deadline and, very sad to know even in this; Nigeria is shifting the goal post as is the case with ending gas flaring in Nigeria.
“This is, despite all the efforts the Civil Society has put into advocacy in terms of scarce resources. Nigeria is like the custodian of the so-called ”African Time”, Morris said.
He called on government to give more attention to renewable, cleaner energy and; less to crude oil that has brought the country, especially the Niger Delta so much violent conflict and environmental degradation.
“It would even be better to fix our refineries and stop importation of refined products as this makes more economic sense than what is currently obtainable due to the aggregate of negative consequences.
“And, as the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth would say, ”Leave the Oil In The Soil”, Protect the Environment because ”The Environment Is Our Life”, Morris said.