Oil production sites across the globe burned off less natural gas last year, new satellite data revealed. Despite a half-percent increase in global oil production, the decline in the global gas flaring - the burning of natural gas associated with oil extraction - reversed a trend that started in 2010.
Flaring of natural gas around the world contributes to climate change and it constitutes a waste of energy resources. The process takes place because of technical, regulatory, and/or economic constraints. It causes more than 350 million tons of CO2 emissions each year, with serious harmful impacts from uncombusted methane and black carbon emissions.
The data was recently released by the Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership (GGFR), a World Bank-managed organization comprising governments, oil companies, and international institutions working to reduce gas flaring.
According to the data, 141 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas was flared in 2017. This is a 5% decrease from 2016 when nearly 148 bcm of natural gas was flared. While Russia remains the world's largest gas flaring country, it also saw the largest decline in flaring last year. Venezuela and Mexico also reduced their flaring significantly in 2017, while in Iran and Libya, there were notable increases in gas flaring.
"Ending routine gas flaring is a key component of our climate change mitigation agenda, and the global flaring reduction Initiative we launched just three years ago now has 77 endorsers, covering about 60 percent of the total gas flared around the world," said the World Bank's Senior Director and head of its Energy & Extractives Global Practice, Riccardo Puliti.
"The latest global gas flaring data is encouraging, but we will have to wait a few more years to know whether it represents a much-needed turning point," he added.
In 2015, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, and 25 initial endorsers launched the "Zero Routine Flaring by 2030" Initiative that commits endorsers to not routinely flare gas in new oil field developments and to seek solutions to end routine flaring at existing oil production sites as soon as possible and no later than 2030. It has now been endorsed by 27 governments, 35 oil companies, and 15 development institutions.
"The Initiative is an essential tool for ending routine flaring," said GGFR's Program Manager, Bjorn Hamso. "Going forward, it is paramount that oil field operators continue to address ongoing "legacy" flaring, and that new business models are developed that will enable more investors to participate in flaring reduction projects."