Babatunde Raji Fashola

Thus far, like many other countries, Nigeria can answer the clean energy question by improving the designs and efficiency of our energy production technologies to reduce emitted gaseous pollutants. While we do this, we can equally seek for more promising forms of energy such as by solar photovoltaics and solar thermal power, as well as wind energy.


On August 2, 2016, Nigeria’s Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, appeared in an interview on Stephen Sackur’s HARDtalk—a current affairs interview programme on BBC World News and the BBC News Channel. In that interview, one of the questions asked by Sackur, which caught my attention, was on whether Nigeria will harness coal as fuel for power generation despite the outcomes of the December 2015 Paris Climate Summit (COP 21) which deliberated on the roadmap for decarbonising the global economy through the promotion of clean energy technology.

While Mr. Fashola made a pretty good attempt on the question, nevertheless, such a probe, was a good avenue for Mr. Fashola to tell the world how Nigeria plans to use coal to attain its energy needs while still taking part in the global march for a clean energy future.

The fact is that despite the decarbonisation target set by world leaders as a way of continuing to reduce the venting and flaring of greenhouse gases until zero emission is achieved, it is still possible to increasingly exploit fuels such as coal for our energy needs without having to dramatically change the world’s energy technologies. This is attainable through the emerging technology of carbon capture and storage – CCS.

Carbon dioxide, being the chief cause of global warming – as a result of its excess accumulation in the atmosphere – can be mitigated against by trapping the said gas at its point sources such as power generation plants and other heavy industries, and transporting the gas through pipelines to points where it is dumped safely in geological formations underground. This technology is possible to utilise in both future as well as existing large point sources of carbon dioxide. For existing facilities, it is possible to retrofit carbon dioxide capture, and for future facilities, it is incumbent to incorporate carbon dioxide capture within such facilities.

This is the reason why despite the ever-present concerns about climate change, coal-fired power generation facilities have been on the rise, faster than it were five or ten years back. Most interestingly, further energy scenarios, as put forward by the International Energy Agency, have projected additional increase in coal-fired power generation facilities over the next two decades.

In order to have a successful deployment of CCS technology, Nigeria could map out all the cost curves that would accrue within the technology value chain such as taking into account the geographical relationship between large point sources of carbon dioxide and its storage opportunities. This should be a central role in decision making by governments, industries and other stakeholders.


Carbon-capture-and-storage
While the technology of carbon capture and storage can seem straightforward theoretically, there are however challenges associated with its deployment. These challenges vary from limitations in scientific/technologic aspects and onto social perspectives. Whereas, from a scientific/technology outlook, known areas of uncertainty include issues that surround long-term security of stored carbon dioxide such as the need for a detailed understanding of geomechanical and geochemical concerns on fluid containment of a storage system, from a social perspective, there could be a problem of cost, as well as the need for a detailed assessment of legal and regulatory frameworks necessary for the facilitation and deployment of technology.

In order to have a successful deployment of CCS technology, Nigeria could map out all the cost curves that would accrue within the technology value chain such as taking into account the geographical relationship between large point sources of carbon dioxide and its storage opportunities. This should be a central role in decision making by governments, industries and other stakeholders. For example, a detailed regional assessment of CCS implementation is key in establishing how well an emission source would complement storage options, and what amount of storage volumes are required for given sites.

It is equally important to provide clarifications on any liabilities and possible legal constraints that could be associated with CCS through mapping out legal and regulatory frameworks that facilitate CCS implementation.

In terms of technology transfer, climate change conventions and discussions are good avenues in which developed countries – already conversant with knowledge derived from known and tested, pilot and large-scale storage projects – can help their developing counterparts. Not only that, the CCS industry in developing countries might also embark on awareness campaigns in order that local communities can be sensitised on the need to accept this technology as an environmentally friendly measure for the mitigation of climate change.

Thus far, like many other countries, Nigeria can answer the clean energy question by improving the designs and efficiency of our energy production technologies to reduce emitted gaseous pollutants. While we do this, we can equally seek for more promising forms of energy such as by solar photovoltaics and solar thermal power, as well as wind energy.

Mohammed Dahiru Aminu, a Ph.D. candidate in carbon capture and storage at Cranfield University, is a geologist and academic.

Illustration credit: Inhabitat.com.