Natural gas flaring - it’s not just for developing countries…
The Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership is public-private partnership led by the World Bank to cooperate on…well, what it sounds like…reducing the flaring of natural gas. The main idea is that releasing natural gas (primarily methane, a potent greenhouse gas) is more problematic from safety and climate standpoints, thus flaring it is a better means of control. The natural gas is typically flared because there is no infrastructure to transport the natural gas and/or there is not enough demand for the natural gases in the local/regional market. The flared natural gas is typically associated with oil production, and thus, is somewhat of a byproduct in that location.
The short of the story is that there is often more than one kind of energy and service associated with producing any particular resource. In the case of natural gas flaring, the production of oil is often accompanied by “associated gas”, and if there is no infrastructure for the ‘secondary’ energy resource, and no plan to make use of the ‘secondary’ resource, then it effectively has no economic existence but can have an environmental existence. I’ve seen flaring even in South Texas (a place with one of the most dense networks of natural gas pipelines anywhere in the world) the last two years with development of the Eagle Ford shale as the developers produce oil and gas in locations that are new, and thus without pipelines (but in Texas they build them relatively quickly!).
Links of interest below:
Article on latest World Bank findings (pointing out that the North Dakota is now a significant location of natural gas flaring as a result of development of the Bakken Shale for oil):
“Bakken fires made U.S. the biggest source of new flaring
in 2011”: http://www.eenews.net/energywire/2012/07/10/4
This video made by the World Bank using Google Earth shows the locations of natural gas flaring around the world: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=miOJ86B4xe8.
Data from the World Bank site on global natural gas flaring (notice that Russia flares 3X the amount of the next country at the same time it attempts to corner natural gas supplies to Europe): Estimated Flared Volumes from Satellite Data, 2007-2011
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