Research proposal on crude oil waste and the extent of regulatory compliance by International Oil Companies in Nigeria

  1. Introduction

Petroleum is among the world’s most important natural resources. It is a highly-traded commodity in the international market (Ruta et al, 2012) and also most dependable source of energy for both industrial and domestic applications after superseding coal at the beginning of the century. Production of crude oil in Nigeria peaked at 2.5 million barrels a day, according to a 2015 record from OPEC. In addition, crude oil has contributed over 90% of the country’s GDP in the last 50 years (Aniefiok, 2013).

However, petroleum discovery and extraction involve the generation of drilling waste, which forms a major source of pollution in oil-producing locations. Wastes that are usually associated with drilling operations are: – drill cuttings, contaminated drilling fluids and additives, gaseous contaminants from internal combustion engines and heavy metals, among others. Almost every process in the finding and production of petroleum generates wastes, which impacts the environment negatively. Global environmental awareness in the late 1980s to early 1990s enhanced understanding of challenges in the oil and gas sector as well as spurred regulatory authorities into taking effective measures to control or eliminate environmental damage caused by drilling waste (Mohhamed, 2012; Geehan, et al, 2000).

The level of environmental degradation resulting from crude exploitation in Nigeria highlights the need for improved waste management strategies that are capable of reducing crude oil waste, environmental liabilities and operational cost (Bashat, 2011; Akhakpe, 2012). Furthermore, eradicating or controlling waste production is central to the reduction of environmental liabilities and the operational expense, according to the International Energy Agency (2014).

The environmental protection agencies and regulators of offshore operations in Nigeria have neglected their oversight functions which includes risk management, specifically in activities that have deleterious impact on the environment.

In contrast to the Nigerian offshore oil and gas regulatory regime, crude oil extraction activities in the U.K. are dynamic and constantly developing because the laws are regularly amended to address new environmental concerns. It is worth mentioning, however, that the level of improvement in Europe was achieved through regulatory inputs from IOCs. Therefore, Ndine (2011) notes that the failure of regulatory institutions and the Nigerian government is a reflection of the capacity gap and administrative inefficiencies. Despite the robust environmental protection initiatives from EGASPIN, the cascade of environmental crimes perpetrated by operators in the industry is an indication that the legal regimes and institutions guiding waste management in the sector are derisory (EGASPIN, 2012).

Notwithstanding the various environmental legislations in Nigeria aimed at checkmating the excesses of the oil companies to achieve sustainable development, most of these laws have not been implemented. Agencies like Department for Petroleum Resources that are empowered to regulate IOCs lack access to fundamental apparatuses such as helicopters and ICT tools required for effective functioning.

To increase productivity and achieve sustainable profits, IOCs should adhere to regulations and there must be effective waste management operations to stem the tide of pollution as well as curtail financial liabilities (Nwokedi, 2015).

After identifying the various problems contributing to the environmental degradation and the extent of compliance by multinational oil companies, this research will proffer recommendations that should be conscientiously and vigorously implemented to reverse the trend.

The research will also examine various avenues through which the government can strengthen the agencies vested with responsibilities of protecting the Nigerian environment. This, however, requires provision of all necessary incentives that ensure maximum efficiency.

  1. Literature review

There are enormous literatures on the Nigerian oil industry due to its strategic importance of oil in the Nigerian economy and the world in general. Most of the publications center on environmental and human right issues with direct correlation to oil exploitation in Nigeria that has caused socio-economic problems. For the purpose of this study, here’s a brief review of some literatures.

The first major book published on Nigerian oil was by Schatzl in 1969, about 13 years after the discovery of oil in Nigeria. The book focused essentially on the economic exploitation of oil and gas in Nigeria by multinational oil companies, especially Shell-BP Development Company of Nigeria Limited. The book highlighted the importance of oil in the Nigerian economy and its importance as a major source of energy.  This book did not discuss the environmental issues related to crude oil waste and compliance by oil companies.

Socio-anthropological approach was taken by Deborah Robinson in 1996 to study the impact of oil on the Ogoni community of the Niger Delta. It was a case study of the social and political impacts of oil production on the community. The study indicated the adverse impact of gas flaring on the community’s environment but environmental issues were not central in her study.

Then in 1990, Ikein studied the impact of oil on a developing country, with special emphasis on Nigeria. His work adopted a socio-economic and anthropological approach, but it was not exclusively devoted to the study of oil operations in the Niger Delta but on the impact of extractive economies around the world with little reference to the Niger Delta.

The book on ‘Oil and the Niger Delta People in International Law’ and the ‘Nigerian Petroleum (Oil) industry’ were written by Ebeku (2005) and Etikerentse (1985) respectively. The books delved on oil and waste management issues from a legal perspective. Ebeku’s book was very passionate about the total neglect of the Niger Delta by the Nigerian State in terms of infrastructural development and inequity in the distribution of the oil wealth that is coming from the region. However, he failed to mention the level of IOC compliance with environmental regulation resulting from their business activities.

Nevertheless, in 1998, Okorodudu-Fabara wrote a book that centered on environmental issues in Nigeria, including oil-related environmental problems. However, Okorodudu-Fubara study dealt with the legal study of environmental issues in Nigeria but failed to discuss compliance with multinational oil companies.

In view of above inadequacies outlined by the authors, this present study will contribute extensively in the area of environmental sustainability by seeking ways for IOC to adhere to regulatory standards in their host country, Nigeria. The study will also look at effective waste management, “3 Rs” Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, which arrange waste management systems as indicated by their desirability quality as far as waste minimization (A. Jeihanipour, 2011).

  1. Research question

Is oil production in Nigeria sustainable and what is the compliance index of the E&P firms in the context of drilling waste management and environmental protection?

  1. Research objectives

In view of the stated issues in the rationale, the study is steered to accomplish the overall aim by these following specific objectives;

  1. To examine the categories of drilling waste generated during crude oil extraction in
  2. To investigate the approaches to waste management adopted by the oil companies operating in the Niger Delta.
  3. To study the extent at which the oil corporations operating in Nigeria comply with the regulations and principles guiding waste
  4. To appraise operational waste management approaches particularly green tech alternatives that will foster sustainable oil waste management in the Niger Delta and Nigeria as a whole.

5. Methods

The overlapping nature of this research exigent both primary and secondary data to be collected from questionnaire, structure interviews, relevant literature, documentation from government agencies and oil companies for its robustness.

This research approach will start with particular observation and progress to general patterns (Silverman 2013; Walsh 2011; Patton 2012; Maylor and Blackmon 2014). The research will involve gathering information by interviewing a sample of staff of International Oil Companies, individuals from the host communities, consultants in the industry, staff of Department of Petroleum Resources. Conducting such interview will help to create understanding of their perceptions and expectation of drilling waste management. The interview will also help to evaluate different sorts of drilling waste that contaminates the environment and then focus on how to minimize them and with possibilities of recycling. Primary and secondary data will help identify the drilling operations of the oil companies in Nigeria and their level of consistence to regulatory standards. The conclusions drawn through this methodology would go far in equipping the researcher with the enabling tools to suggest feasible ways through which drilling operations can be improved.

  1. Limitations of the research

Research that involves human participation commonly includes challenges of ethical, language, moral and social-political issues. Also, data collection in developing countries such as Nigeria is sure to be problematic due to accessibility and poor data storage facilities.

  1. Timeline

The three years of the research will be structured as follows,

Year one: Literature review, ethics application, demographic profiling, secure research participants, brief reference group.

Year two: Analysis of quantitative, development of evidence-based model, consultation with reference group, conduction of semi-structured interviews, evaluation of resources.

Year three: Complete data analysis, update literature review, write-up, disseminate findings, prepare for larger-scale project proposal.