WASHINGTON, June 27, 2011 — Reductions in gas flaring in several countries helped bring down flaring to 134 billion cubic meters (bcm) worldwide in 2010, a 13-bcm drop from 2009, according to the latest satellite estimates. This nine-percent global reduction was achieved even as global crude oil production rose by two million barrels a day over the same period, says the World Bank-led Global Gas Flaring Reduction partnership (GGFR).
The latest drop in 2010 is revealed in new flaring estimates based on satellite data gathered by scientists at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The 13-bcm decline — led by flaring drops of 11.4 bcm in Russia and 1.2 bcm in Kazakhstan — is roughly equivalent to 30 million tons of CO2 emissions, or to taking almost six million cars off the road. These two countries have made important investments in associated gas utilization projects.
“These latest estimates reinforce a positive downward trend in flaring,” said Vijay Iyer, Director of the World Bank’s Sustainable Energy Department. “Since 2005, gas flaring has dropped 22 percent thanks to the efforts of the countries concerned, and significant support provided by the Global Gas Flaring Reduction partnership.”
Until concerted action to reduce gas flaring began after the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, the practice — associated with oil production — added about 400 million tons of CO2 emissions each year.
The GGFR partnership has established a collaborative Global Standard for gas flaring reduction. It provides a framework and a mechanism for governments, companies, and other stakeholders to consult and develop joint action to reduce barriers to utilization of gas associated to oil production. By facilitating viable alternatives to gas flaring, GGFR helps partners exploit the commercial value of currently wasted natural gas to improve energy efficiency, expand access to energy, and contribute to climate change mitigation and sustainable development.
Inconsistent data and under-reporting of gas flaring by governments and companies has complicated the global effort to track progress on flaring reduction. GGFR’s cooperation with the NOAA to use satellite data aims to improve the reliability and consistency of global gas flaring data. This has now resulted in more consistent national and global estimates of gas flaring volumes from 1995 through to 2010.
Although Russia and Nigeria have achieved the largest flaring reductions since 2006, they still top the list of flaring countries for 2010, which also includes Iran, Iraq, Algeria, Angola, Kazakhstan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. Member countries of the GGFR partnership have been relatively more effective than non-members in reducing their intensity of gas flaring, that is flaring in relation to their oil production volume.
“These latest flaring estimates indeed show encouraging results,” says Bent Svensson, GGFR’s program manager. “The challenge is to sustain this momentum. If governments and companies keep working together, we believe it is possible to make significant further progress.”
The World Bank is also supporting these efforts through other instruments. The International Development Association (IDA), the concessional lending arm of the World Bank, is assisting Nigeria and its energy companies to commercialize and develop a domestic market for natural gas under the Nigeria Gas and Electricity Improvement Project. This has enabled the use of larger volumes of flared gas for productive power generation. The Global Environment Facility, similarly, has recently approved a project to adopt technologies for small-scale gas utilization as part of the Nigerian gas project.
The GGFR partners include: Algeria (Sonatrach), Angola (Sonangol), Azerbaijan, Cameroon (SNH), Ecuador (PetroEcuador), Equatorial Guinea, France, Gabon, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Khanty-Mansijsysk (Russia), Mexico (SENER), Nigeria, Norway, Qatar, the United States (DOE), Uzbekistan; BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ENI, ExxonMobil, Marathon Oil, Maersk Oil & Gas, Pemex, Qatar Petroleum, Shell, Statoil, TOTAL; the European Union, the World Bank Group; Associated partner: Wärtsilä.