31/03/2023 – Environment / Gas / Flaring / Emissions / Carbon / Methane / Oil / World Bank / GGFR
Global gas flaring falls to lowest level since 2010
New data reveals the reduction in gas flaring in 2022 equated to taking three million cars off the road.
Progress in reducing gas flaring resumed in 2022, with gas flared worldwide falling by five billion cubic meters (bcm) to 139bcm – its lowest level since 2010 – according to new satellite data compiled by the World Bank's Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership (GGFR).
The practice of burning natural gas associated with oil extraction, gas flaring is essentially wasted gas that could otherwise displace dirtier energy sources, increase energy access in some of the world's poorest countries, and provide many countries worldwide with much-needed energy security. The latest data coming out of the World Bank's GGFR – a trust fund and partnership of governments, oil companies and multilateral organisations, working to end routine gas flaring at oil production sites around the world – is therefore hailed as welcome news.
“After a decade of stalled progress, global gas flaring volumes fell in 2022 by around three per cent, which is a welcome drop, especially during a time of concern about energy security for many countries,” reported Guangzhe Chen, World Bank’s Vice President for Infrastructure. “We continue to encourage all oil producers to seize opportunities to end this polluting and wasteful practice.”
Countries are driving down flaring volumes
GGFR – in partnership with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Payne Institute at the Colorado School of Mines – developed its global gas flaring estimates based upon observations from two satellites, launched in 2012 and 2017. The advanced sensors of these satellites detect the heat emitted by gas flares as infrared emissions at global upstream oil and gas facilities.
The data reveals that three countries – Nigeria, Mexico, and the United States – accounted for most of the decline in global gas flaring in 2022. Two other countries – Kazakhstan and Colombia – stand out for consistently reducing flaring volumes in the last seven years.
In addition to the overall reduction in flare volume, global flaring intensity – the amount of flaring per barrel of oil produced – also fell to its lowest level since satellite data began, due to the five-per-cent increase in oil production in 2022. This indicates a gradual and sustained decoupling of oil production from flaring.
9 nations account for three-quarters of flaring activity
Despite such progress, the top nine flaring countries continue to be responsible for the vast majority of flaring, with Russia, Iraq, Iran, Algeria, Venezuela, the US, Mexico, Libya and Nigeria accounting for nearly three-quarters of flare volumes – yet under half of global oil production.
The satellite data shows that decreased Russian gas exports to the European Union did not increase gas flaring in Russia. Throughout 2022, the EU significantly increased its liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports from the United States, Angola, Norway, Qatar and Egypt, and via pipeline from Azerbaijan and Norway. Of these countries, only the US, Angola and Egypt have made substantial progress in converting associated gas that would otherwise be flared into LNG exports.
Uncertainty surrounding estimates on methane emissions
GGFR estimates that in 2022 gas flaring released 357 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents, 315 million tonnes in the form of carbon dioxide and 42 million tonnes in the form of methane. The report also considers the ‘state of the science’ and the uncertainty surrounding how much methane is released from flaring. It finds that methane emissions due to flaring could be significantly higher than previously estimated. For example, if the average flare is just five percentage points less efficient at combusting methane, then globally the amount of methane released would be three times higher than currently estimated.
"We're concerned by the amount of methane emitted through flaring, particularly from flares that are not working properly,” stressed Zubin Bamji, the World Bank's GGFR Program Manager. “Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide in the short term. So we need to understand this more and are ramping up our efforts to help developing countries tackle methane emissions.”
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