World Bank Sees Warning Sign in Gas Flaring Increase

July 3, 2012

WASHINGTON DC, July 3, 2012 — New data showing a two-billion cubic meter increase in flared gas in 2011 over the previous year is a warning that efforts to reduce flaring need to be sustained and even scaled up, said officials with the World Bank-led Global Gas Flaring Reduction partnership (GGFR).

The slight increase in flaring from 138 billion cubic meters in 2010 to 140 bcm in 2011, revealed in latest satellite data, is due largely to increased hydrocarbon production in Russia and shale oil and gas operations in the US state of North Dakota. While not significant when viewed against the longer-term 20% drop in flaring since 2005 — from 172 to 140 bcm — the new increase is a warning sign, World Bank officials said.  Gas flaring reductions since 2005 have cut greenhouse gas emissions by a volume equivalent to that emitted by some 16 million cars.

The small increase underlines the importance for countries and companies to sustain and even accelerate efforts to reduce flaring of gas associated with oil production,” said Bent Svensson, manager of the GGFR partnership. “It is a warning sign that major gains over the past few years could be lost if oil-producing countries and companies don’t step up their efforts.”

Some of the highlights from the 2011 satellite data on flaring include:

Overall, global flaring has increased by 2 bcm, from 138 bcm in 2010 to 140 bcm in 2011. 

The USA, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Venezuela are the main contributors to this increase. These countries need to step up their efforts in associated gas utilization. The same applies to Iraq.

Most of the increased flaring in the USA comes from North Dakota, where there has been an important increase in activity related to shale oil and gas production.

Russia still tops the world's flaring countries, followed by Nigeria, Iran and Iraq.  The USA is now the fifth flaring country in the world, with some 7.1 bcm of gas flared in 2011.

Latest satellite estimates also show some continuous progress in flaring reduction in Nigeria, Algeria, Mexico and Qatar.  These countries need to sustain their flaring reduction and gas utilization efforts.

By reducing gas flaring, oil-producing countries and companies are improving energy efficiency and mitigating climate change,” said S. Vijay Iyer, Director of the World Bank’s Sustainable Energy Department.  “Instead of wasting this valuable resource, we now need to develop gas markets and infrastructure so the associated gas can be utilized to generate electricity and cleaner cooking fuels.”

Inconsistent data and often 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 US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (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 2011.

The GGFR, a public-private initiative of some 30 major oil-producing countries and companies, aims to overcome the challenges for the utilization of associated gas, including lack of regulations and markets for associated gas utilization. GGFR partners’ main objective is to reduce the environmental impact of gas flaring, as well as the waste of a valuable energy source.

Global gas flaring, estimated in 2011 at 140 billion cubic meters (bcm), also accounts for some 360 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Eliminating these annual emissions is equivalent to taking some 70 million cars off the road.

Note to Editors:

The GGFR partners include: Algeria (Sonatrach), Angola (Sonangol), Azerbaijan (SOCAR), Cameroon (SNH), France, Gabon, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Khanty-Mansiysk (Russia), Kuwait Oil Corporation, Mexico (SENER), Nigeria, Norway, Republic of Congo, 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 European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the World Bank Group; Associated partner: Wärtsilä.

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