Friday, November 13, 2009

Coding of Crude Oil a la Bankole

Dimeji Bankole, the Nigerian Speaker of the House of Representatives’ suggestion that Nigeria should consider coding its crude oil at face value seems a rational one, except that he did not quite explain how this should be done. While chemical “coding”, in the context Bankole seems to refer, is possible and actually used to distinguish batches of certain chemical products through the use of additives to serve as chemical markers. It is used usually in highly purified substances that have identical chemical and physical characteristics regardless of their source of origin.

Crude oil as it turns out have different chemical and physical characteristics unique to their source. In fact, no two wells anywhere in the world have been known to exhibit the same chemical and physical characteristics. Physical characteristics such as spectrophotometry, rheology, sedimentation rate, specific gravity, even color and organoleptics may be employed along with chemical characteristics such as fractional component assay, gas chromatography, HPLC, voltammetry, NMR, Pyrolysis, mass spectrometry etc as analytical and assay methods. All these are enough to pinpoint not only the country of origin of the crude oil, but the exact well from which it was drilled.

Bankole was either shooting off the cuff in the characteristic ignorance that pervades the Nigerian body politic, or was setting the stage for a future multi-million dollar crude oil additive contract for some of his friends waiting in the wings to execute yet another scam to game the system and loot the coffers of Nigeria.  Besides, what is the cost of adding this so called "code", its decoding and other attendant administative costs?  Assuming this is possible, what is the cost/ benefit analysis?  Any leader worth his salt should be capable of critical reasoning and Bankole fails to exhibit this with his asinine suggestion.