The World Bank will soon propose a target of zero routine gas flaring by 2030 and will be looking to many organisations to support this initiative.
Around 140 billion cubic metres of gas is flared or burned annually worldwide, equating to some 350 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. This is equivalent to the entire electricity consumption of the African continent, according to Anita George, a director of the World Bank's International Finance Corporation, with a special focus on the energy and extractive industries.
“Eliminating this gas flaring would, in emissions terms, be equivalent to removing 70 million cars off the streets and could have a huge visible, significant and relatively short-term impact on climate change,” she told delegates at Round Table 9, 'Where are we now in the climate change agenda' at the World Petroleum Congress in Moscow.
Some nations have already made dramatic changes to their gas-flaring practices, said George.
“In Mexico, gas flaring has been reduced by 66% in just two years. Mexico's Ministry of Energy, (state oil company) Pemex and the country's regulators deserve credit for this achievement.
“In Azerbaijan, (state player) Socar has reduced gas flaring and venting by almost 50% in two years and in Nigeria, with an investment of over $3 billion, gas flaring has been reduced by 4 Bcm over the past five years,” she said.
However, WPC host nation Russia remains the world's largest gas flarer and has fallen woefully short of its targeted cuts, despite government legislation, revealed George.
“According to satellite data, Russia is by far the largest flarer of gas. Russian regulation required that by 2012 oil companies would have to utilise a minimum 95% of their associated gas or be subject to fines,” George said.
“Unfortunately, the utilisation rate is far from this required level, but it seems clear that this regulation and other measures have accelerated the utilisation of gas by companies such as Rosneft, Surgutneftegas, TNK BP and Gazprom Neft.”
The government in Russia's Khanty-Mansiysk region launched “an ambitious” programme on gas utilisation with an investment of $3.4 billion, which included an 1800-kilometre gas pipeline, 34 gas-fired and reciprocating power plants and two gas-processing plants.
“As a result of these investments the Khanty-Mansiysk government has achieved 85% associated gas utilisation and a 45% reduction in annual gas flaring,”said George.
Thirty-two oil companies and producing nations comprise the World Bank-led Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership that was launched in 2002.
“This partnership promotes the effective regulations and creating government incentives to unlock the opportunities [from the gas] that currently is burnt into thin air,” said George.
While gas flaring might be a relatively minor source of black carbon globally, it is particularly important in the Arctic.
“Early stage research shows that flaring contributes close to 40% or more to the black carbon – or soot - deposited on snow and ice in the Arctic.
“When deposited on snow and ice, the soot absorbs heat and reduces the ability to reflect sunlight which then causes melting as well,” she said.
George believes that gas flaring is one “very tangible and relatively short-term way” for the oil and gas industry to show leadership on mitigating the effects of climate change.