Billions of cubic meters of natural gas is flared annually at oil production sites around the globe. Flaring gas wastes a valuable energy resource that could be used to support economic growth and progress in oil-producing countries. It also contributes to climate change by releasing millions of tons of CO2 to the atmosphere. The World Bank is working with governments, oil companies, and other development institutions to stop wasting this gas, and to create markets in which to sell it and put it to productive use.
Gas flaring happens for multiple reasons. Sometimes energy markets are under-developed and functioning poorly, which can discourage investments in flare elimination. In other cases the legal, regulatory, and operating environment is not conducive for investment. Furthermore, oil production often takes place in remote areas where long distances to consumer markets requires substantial new infrastructure in the form of new gas pipelines or power networks.
Even with these barriers, utilizing associated gas is in most cases an investment rather than a cost. Often the best utilization solution involves connecting the gas to a network or converting it to power in a gas-fired power plant. However, as technology evolves, “self-contained” solutions are expected to play a larger role, such as converting the gas into diesel, synthetic crude oil, fertilizers, and other liquids.
This “Zero Routine Flaring by 2030” Initiative will soon officially launch with a coalition of governments, oil companies, and development institutions, followed by a campaign to gather broad, global support. In the coming months and years, the coalition will collaborate to establish effective regulations, government incentives, and technical solutions to unlock the opportunities now burned into thin air.
More than ever before, we need cleaner and more efficient sources of energy. Natural gas will play an important role in the transition to a low carbon future. Ending routine flaring is a necessary step on our journey to that future.