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Satellite maps show shocking gas-flare energy waste: 170bn cubic metres of natural gas lost to oil producers’ flares in 2006; emitting 400mt CO2/yr

Posted by gmarkets on 10 September, 2007

A study commissioned by the World Bank and carried out by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated that, based on satellite photos, 170 billion cubic metres of natural gas went up in oil producers’ flares last year, reported The Age (1/9/2007, p.B3). 27pc of entire US consumption: The bank said the amount was equivalent to 27 per cent of the entire US consumption of natural gas, and 5.5 per cent of global gas output. Had it been sold in the US at 2006 prices, it would have been worth $US40 billion ($A53 billion at 2006 exchange rates). And were the world’s oil producers a country, gas flares alone would make them one of the biggest polluters on the planet. The flares emit some 400 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, more than 1 per cent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, and not much less than Australia’s.

Huge waste of energy: Brent Svensson, manager of the bank’s global gas-firing reduction partnership with oil producing companies, said that “Gas flaring not only harms the environment by contributing to global warming, but it is a huge waste of a cleaner source of energy that could be used to generate much needed electricity in poorer countries. In Africa alone, about 40 billion cubic metres of gas are burned every year, which, if put to use, could generate half the electricity needed in that continent.”

Russia the worst culprit: Russia was the worst culprit. From satellite photos, the US scientists estimated that Russia flared-off 50.7 billion cubic metres of gas in 2004, a third of the world’s total. Nigeria’s oil producers were the second worst, burning off 23 billion cubic metres of gas. Iran was third, followed by Iraq, Kazakhstan, Algeria, Angola, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, China and Indonesia. The US might have been among them, except that the researchers only investigated the flaring at its offshore wells. Australia was a relative cleanskin, but even it flared off 750 million cubic metres of gas.

Progress in reduction is slow: The study examined 12 years of satellite records, concluding that while 16 countries including Indonesia and Norway have reduced their flaring since 1994, 22 others have increased the amount going up in flames. The bank was trying to generate common action by all stakeholders to reduce gas flaring, and find markets and infrastructure to put the surplus gas to use. BP, Shell, ExxonMobil and Chevron were all partners in the enterprise, along with the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its key members. But progress has been slow.

The Age, 1/9/2007, p. B3

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