Natural gas flaring


in Economics, The environment

Drum kit

Gas flaring is probably the most wasteful use of hydrocarbon fuels on earth. Natural gas is often found in the same deposits as oil and, in many oil exporting states, the gas released during oil extraction is simply burned, rather than shipped off for use. In Iraq, enough gas is flared each year to double electrical output if used in turbines instead. Worldwide, oil and gas refining and processing produces about 6% of global emissions. In Canada, flaring produces 5.5 megatonnes of emissions annually. Flaring is also common in some West African states, where poor access to electricity is already hampering development.

This is the sort of area where international cooperation could make a big difference. It might not be worthwhile for firms in oil exporting states to install equipment for transporting and using natural gas, but doing so may be cheaper than reducing emissions from other kinds of firms elsewhere. Rather than shutting down production, a cement plant in Canada might pay the up-front costs of a natural gas capture and transport project in Russia. Rather than being burned uselessly, the gas could be used in place of dirtier forms of power: whether replacing dirty coal plants with efficient gas turbines or being used to fuel vehicles. The result would be less waste, and the more efficient use of an increasingly scarce non-renewable resource.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Anon March 12, 2008 at 12:22 pm

That shot’s really grainy at full size.

What was the ISO? And did you tinker with it?

. March 18, 2008 at 4:09 pm

Under Russia’s existing Gas Export Act, Gazprom enjoys a full monopoly on the country’s natural gas exports as well as the natural gas transport network. Other energy producers, therefore, are forced to either reinject or flare their natural gas production or sell the gas to Gazprom at domestic (subsidized) prices that often are below the cost of production. Right now, the domestic price is approximately $60 per 1,000 cubic meters, but Gazprom sells its product abroad for an average of $390.

. February 8, 2009 at 10:19 pm

Offshore LNG Generation

Burning natural gas has always been viewed in a better light than burning crude oil by the public–more efficient in many home applications and less polluting in general. But it has been a hindrance and a source of frustration for the energy industry from the earliest days. A hindrance even today as billions of cubic feet of natural gas are flared or vented to the atmosphere as a by product of oil production. This is commonly the case with offshore oil fields where lack of pipeline infrastructure and/or local market negates the value of this useful commodity.

The World Bank estimates 5 to 6 trillion cf (cubic feet) of natural gas are flared /vented yearly representing 400 million tons of green house gas emissions. This is equivalent to nearly one-third of the European Union’s annual natural gas consumption. Though this volume includes onshore operations (eastern Russia represents the largest single source), offshore fields are major contributors. Nigeria is the perfect poster child for such waste. At just $4 per thousand cf Nigeria is losing almost $100 million annually.

Milan November 3, 2009 at 5:23 pm

There is some good information on natural gas flaring in Morgan Downey’s Oil 101, which I will post a review of when finished reading.

. February 13, 2012 at 10:44 am

When US government scientists began sampling the air from a tower north of Denver, Colorado, they expected urban smog — but not strong whiffs of what looked like natural gas. They eventually linked the mysterious pollution to a nearby natural-gas field, and their investigation has now produced the first hard evidence that the cleanest-burning fossil fuel might not be much better than coal when it comes to climate change.

Led by researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Colorado, Boulder, the study estimates that natural-gas producers in an area known as the Denver-Julesburg Basin are losing about 4% of their gas to the atmosphere — not including additional losses in the pipeline and distribution system. This is more than double the official inventory, but roughly in line with estimates made in 2011 that have been challenged by industry. And because methane is some 25 times more efficient than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere, releases of that magnitude could effectively offset the environmental edge that natural gas is said to enjoy over other fossil fuels.

. April 1, 2012 at 6:01 pm

Total rig in North Sea enveloped by gas cloud

A gas cloud has encircled Total’s Elgin Franklin platform in the North Sea after failed attempts to shut a problematic production well caused a leak, an RMT union official said, based on eyewitness accounts from workers on nearby rigs.

“People seven miles away can see a gas cloud coming from the Total rig,” said Jake Molloy, head of the section of the U.K. union that represents offshore oil and gas workers.

A separate relief well may need to be drilled to ease pressure and allow emergency teams to regain entry to the rig and try to fix the problem, he said, citing engineers.

“The well in question had caused Total some problems for some considerable time. A decision was taken weeks ago to try to kill the well, but then an incident began to develop over the weekend,” he said.

. October 24, 2016 at 7:03 pm

Amid the boom, drillers rushed to get the stuff out of the ground. But the infrastructure to transport oil and its byproducts to the market hadn’t been developed. As a result, the boom had a lot of negative impacts on the environment. Natural gas is a byproduct of drilling for oil. In long-established centers of production, companies build the equipment and infrastructure to capture and ultimately use that gas. In North Dakota, where natural gas processing and storage infrastructure lagged behind oil production, companies simply did what wildcatters used to do: They flared it off. As this chart shows, in 2008 and 2015, anywhere from 25 to 35 percent of the natural gas produced in North Dakota was simply burned. (The proportion has since fallen to about 10 percent.) Flaring natural gas, of course, releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouses gases into the atmosphere.

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