By Grace Alegba
Two engineers in the building-related field have called on the Federal Government to fully exploit the bitumen resource for the nation’s infrastructural development.
Prof. Martin Dada, Department of Building, the University of Lagos (Unilag.) and Mr Augustine Anthonio, Deputy Director, Lagos State Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources spoke in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Lagos.
Dada told NAN that Nigeria has the second-largest deposits in the world, yet grappling with inadequate roads development.
He advised the government to study and tap into the enormous business opportunities through the exploration of the bitumen for road construction, gas and other economic uses.
He said that Nigeria’s huge untapped bitumen if explored, would help bridge the nation’s huge infrastructure deficit and boost foreign earnings from the exportation of the mineral deposit and its derivatives.
“Ondo State has a reported deposit of about 42.47 billion tonnes of bitumen yet to be explored.
“It is the second-largest bitumen deposit in the world.
“When its potentials are properly harnessed, the bitumen can be a game-changer in our infrastructural development and even foreign exchange earnings.
“The construction industry will obviously find a very important use of bitumen and its derivatives.
“Bituminous materials and asphalt are used in road and building constructions, particularly in roofing, felting and tanking, in parks and barn floors for agricultural purposes and so on.
“There are other uses of bitumen derivatives outside the construction industry,’’ he said.
Dada, a fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Building, however, called for proper Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) because bitumen has a greater negative environmental impact than crude oils.
The EIA, he said, is important in order not to repeat the mistakes of the Niger Delta region witnessing environmental degradation and oil spills.
“Countries like Ghana learnt from Nigeria’s mistakes and applied the lessons in stages of preparation for exploration of its Jubilee oil fields.’’
He also advised that samples of the type of bitumen in Ondo State should be subjected to analysis to know the most suitable modifiers for its exploration.
“Pure bitumen to be used in road construction needs enhancements to meet the current durability requirements unique to this age.
“In simple terms, durability refers to the longevity of the constructed roads and modifiers are used to achieve this,’’ Dada said.
He also advised that industries and plants should be established for exploration and railway lines used to link other states to transport refined asphalt from bitumen for road construction and other uses.
He called for political will on the part of leadership to invest in the appropriate technology to tap large quantities of gas, petrol and other fossil fuels from bitumen.
“If Nigeria gets it right, beyond meeting our local or national requirements, the potentials for export of our refined bitumen and associated gases are high’’ the don said.
Also, Anthonio lamented the neglect of the nation’s huge bitumen deposits, which he said, is capable of turning the nation’s economy around.
Anthonio spoke to NAN recently on the sideline of the Society of Energy Administrators (SEA) maiden investiture in Lagos.
He said that both Lagos State and the Federal Government should be committed to bitumen exploration.
The Fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, who is the SEA Board of Trustees Chairman, however, preferred “Tar sand” as the right chemical name for bitumen.
He said that the nation’s engineers have critical roles to play in the exploration of tar sand and other untapped minerals in the nation.
“Some people call it bitumen but they are not the same, chemically, it is called tar sand. Bitumen is the commercial name.
“In 1982, a professor of geology from the University Ife, Prof. Adegoke won his National Merit Award on his research on the tar sand in Ondo State.
“To date, the mineral has not been tapped, I don’t know maybe the exploration is capital intensive and nobody is ready to go into it.
“That state government is not doing anything, as we often tend to mix a lot of politics with our government policies in Nigeria,’’ he said.