Unconventional gas exploration and regulating risks
: What can Nigeria learn from western countries?

  • Alozie Nwabughuogu

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Nigeria operates a monolithic economy which mostly depends on the extraction and exportation of crude oil, which as a source of economic revenue is not eternal. Nigeria must therefore explore other energy options such as unconventional (shale) gas to remain relevant in the international oil and gas market. But whether unconventional (shale) gas can be exploited safely without causing severe damage to the environment and whether the environmental impact from fracking will outweigh the benefits of exploiting a fuel source that is cleaner than oil or coal, but a fossil fuel regardless is highly controversial.

The United States of America (US) has established regulations for managing the risks of shale gas development, making them the market leader. Currently, many countries including the United Kingdom (UK) have shown interest in shale gas development as a potential source of energy expansion. For Nigeria to succeed in developing shale gas, it must adopt the proper policies for managing gas production, gas trade and its uses, and this research aims to provide recommendations to achieve that. In doing so, this research examines the practices in countries with a well-established risk regulation regime and a positive record on shale gas exploration and with activity-specific regulation in place for some years (US and UK, identified in this work as ‘pioneers’). The study from the regulations in the US and UK forms the background for learning opportunities and challenges for Nigeria.

The possibility and the difficulty of learning from pioneers, and the problems of implementation in a country with poor environmental protection is studied on the basis of theories of policy convergence, policy learning, lesson-drawing and policy transfer. These theories provide an insight on why and how societies as they get more industrialised, begin to learn and copy the policies of more developed countries and draw lessons from experiences in more developed countries. The theories also show the difficulties in learning, especially due to national differences. For Nigeria, learning from the UK and US would be feasible but still challenging. Nigeria historically shares ties with the UK. Moreover, it has similarity in political structure with the US. As Nigeria has traditionally a much weaker risk regulatory regime, with less prevention and precaution, learning can be expected to be difficult as risk regulation
theories show. By building on the theoretical framework of learning and risk regulation and by undertaking a comparison of pioneer countries, this research fills an important gap in the literature by providing a clear way forward for regulating fracking in Nigeria.
Date of AwardDec 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorDieter Pesendorfer (Supervisor) & Peter Doran (Supervisor)


  • Law
  • regulation
  • energy
  • unconventional gas
  • fracking
  • environmental
  • convergence theory
  • precautionary principle
  • prevention principle
  • Nigeria
  • US
  • UK

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