In recent times, an average Nigerian home has been hit by the current blackout in Nigeria as a result of grid collapse caused by low gas-power generation from sabotage of gas pipelines, leading to the shutdown of power plants.
While this continues to be a subject of concern for many, experts who are familiar with the subject matter have shed light on the reasons for grid collapse in the country.
Founder of Nairametrics, Ugochukwu Obi-Chukwu, while taking listeners through the chain of electricity in Nigeria during the OnTheMoney series, a weekend conversation by experts on Clubhouse, explained that oil and gas companies are at the tail end of the distribution as these companies typically rely on gas to fire their engines.
According to him, once those generating companies generate power, they pass it through the transmission end which is like the mid-stream operating a huge transmission cable called 130/132KV lines across the country and then it gets stepped down to 33KV lines, 11KV lines for Discos to distribute to customers.
He said, “When there is lack of gas, it results into a consequent lack of fuel to power generating plant, and if you can’t power the generating plant, you can’t generate enough power for the generating companies.
“Today, based on the record, the amount of gas that Nigeria pushes into the power sector to generating plant is not enough – the available gas can only generate as much as 4,000MW (out of 8000MW needed). At the national grid level, they need maximum of 5,000MW but on average because of maintenance issues and the ageing grid we have, they can typically fire between 3500MW and slightly over 4,000MW at the grid level.
“In December, when there was a lot of light, the hydro was working and there was a lot of gas being fired and so we were generating over 4,000MW and sometimes they did above it.
“But what has happened now is a plethora of things. One there has been a lot of gas shortages across the country so enough gas is not being fed to the generating companies. Also, some of the generating companies as well are operating scheduled maintenances and this means that the power they are generating is not enough – If you don’t generate enough power at the transmission level, you can’t do much. Transmission needs a lot of wheeling capacity to maintain the grid, if there are no wheeling capacity, it typically has system collapses.
“The way the system works is that the system needs to have a balance, but because you don’t have that balance you have occasional grid collapses. On the distribution side as well, they now start to ration power because they are not getting enough from the transmission end to deliver to distribution end.”
Speaking on the way forward, Obi-Chukwu said there is a need to fix the gas issue pointing out that the government has tried to build new gas plants strictly for gas to power but the plan did not completely push through.
What the government is saying
According to a recent release by the federal government, progress made to resolve the issue includes;
Restoring the gas pipeline affected by the act of vandalism – it currently contributes an average of 300MW
Negotiation with NAOC on an interim energy sales agreement, to bring the new Okpai II power plant off the grid, thereby contributing additional 400MW of generation capacity.
FG says the ‘pigging’ the gas pipeline supplying gas to the Odukpani power plant is scheduled for completion on March 21st 2022 thus ramping up generation by about 400MV.
In the medium-term, we have agreed with the Nigeria Gas and Power Investment Company (NGPIC) a subsidiary of NNPC on the framework for the overhaul of the Okoloma gas processing plant in River State. thereby restoring the full capacity of the 650MW Afam VI in Port-Harcourt combined cycle power plant.