Gas flaring estimates, which were produced for sixty countries or areas around the world, show that global gas flaring has remained stable over the past twelve years, but remains large - in the range of 150 to 170 billion cubic meters (bcm).
According to the satellite data, in 2006 oil producing countries and companies burned about 170 bcm of natural gas worldwide or nearly five trillion cubic feet (graph, click to enlarge). That’s equivalent to 27% of total U.S. natural gas consumption and 5.5% of total global production of natural gas for the year. If the gas had been sold in the United States instead of being flared, the total US market value would have been about $40 billion. Gas flaring also emits some 400 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, more than the total emissions of a country like France.
Gas flaring not only harms the environment by contributing to global warming but is a huge waste of a cleaner source of energy that could be used to generate much needed electricity in poor countries around the world. In Africa alone about 40 billion cubic meters of gas are burned every year, which if put to use could generate half of the electricity needed in that continent. -Bent Svensson, manager of the World Bank’s GGFR partnership.Flaring or burning of gas is widely used to dispose of natural gas liberated during oil production and processing when this occurs in remote areas far from potential users, where there is often no infrastructure on site to make use of the gas. In recent years, however, renewed efforts are being made to eliminate flaring, such as re-injecting it into the ground to boost oil production, converting it into liquefied natural gas for shipment, transporting it to markets via pipelines, or using it on site for generation of electricity:
energy :: sustainability :: ethanol :: bioenergy :: biofuels :: climate change :: carbon dioxide :: oil :: petroleum :: natural gas :: gas flaring ::
Since this is the first study of gas flaring using satellite observations, scientists warn that these preliminary results should be used with caution, as there still are several sources of error and uncertainty, including variations in flare efficiency, mis-identification of flares, non-continuous sampling, and environmental effects:
In any case the results are welcomed by the climate change and energy community.
This study proves that it is possible to monitor gas flaring from space and make reasonable and independent estimates of the volume being wasted. In the past, the only way to track gas flaring was through official estimates, but now those days are over. These independent figures should help governments and companies alike to get a better sense of how much gas they are actually flaring. - Christopher Elvidge, lead author, NOAA National Geophysical Data CenterAccording to the satellite observations, 22 countries have increased gas flaring over the past 12 years. These include: Azerbaijan, Chad, China, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritania, Myanmar, Oman, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Russia (excluding Khanty Mansiysk region), Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sudan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.
On the other hand, the satellite observations show that 16 countries have decreased gas flaring from 1995 to 2006, including Algeria, Argentina, Bolivia, Cameroon, Chile, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Libya, Nigeria, North Sea, Norway, Peru, Syria, UAE and USA (offshore).
And nine countries have had largely stable gas flaring across those 12 years. These include Australia, Ecuador, Gabon, Iran, Kuwait, Malaysia, Khanty-Mansiysk (Russian Federation), Romania, and Trinidad.
The authors used low-light imaging data from the U.S. Air Force Defense Meteorological Satellite Program to assess the volumes of gas burned in flares, which are visible in observations of nighttime lights under cloud-free conditions (map at the beginning of this article, click to enlarge). Current and planned satellite sensors will continue to provide data suitable for estimating gas flaring volumes for decades to come. GGFR encourages on-site monitoring as well to help track changes in gas flaring volumes and to report progress in reducing flaring.
In 2002 the World Bank and the Government of Norway started the Global Gas Flaring Reduction (GGFR) initiative, which now has 12 country partners and 10 industrial partners, including the world’s largest petroleum companies. GGFR’s main goal is to bring all major stakeholders around the table so that they can together reduce the barriers to eliminate gas flaring to minimum levels. These main barriers include lack of an effective regulatory framework for associated gas utilization, lack of markets and lack of infrastructure to take the gas to those markets.
The GGFR partnership, managed and facilitated by a team at the World Bank in Washington, DC, includes the following partners: Algeria (Sonatrach), Angola, Cameroon, Canada (CIDA), Chad, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, France, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Khanty-Mansijsysk (Russia), Nigeria, Norway, U.K. Foreign Commonwealth Office, the United States (DOE); BP, Chevron, ENI, ExxonMobil, Marathon Oil, Hydro, Shell, Statoil, TOTAL; OPEC Secretariat, and the World Bank.
National Geophysical Data Center / Global Gas Flaring Reduction: A Twelve Year Record of National and Global Gas. Flaring Volumes Estimated Using Satellite Data [*.pdf], Final Report to the World Bank - May 30, 2007
National Geophysical Data Center: Gas Flaring Survey, global results and country results.