In an effort to improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of natural gas worldwide, the World Bank-led Global Gas Flaring Reduction partnership (GGFR) and major international partners are convening for a forum in Amsterdam to jointly look for the most effective ways of unlocking the value of wasted gas associated with oil production.
The Global Forum on Flaring Reduction and Natural Gas Utilization, to be held in Amsterdam on December 4-5, is organized by the World Bank’s GGFR partnership, along with the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Natural Gas STAR Program, Methane to Markets Partnership, and the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (OGP). The event is also supported by major oil producing countries and companies, the OPEC Secretariat and the European Union.
During the drilling for crude oil, gas usually comes to the surface as well and is often vented or flared instead of used for private or commercial consumption.
“In a number of countries, regulatory, financial, and infrastructure barriers still hamper the utilization of natural gas associated with oil production,” says Somit Varma, World Bank Group’s Director for Oil, Gas, Mining and Chemicals. “Governments and companies need to cooperate in removing these obstacles and realizing the value of this wasted resource while minimizing the environmental harm caused by gas flaring.”
The Global Forum will review the regulatory and commercial barriers that lead to natural gas flaring and venting, and will highlight best practices and case studies of operations that have been able to overcome barriers to gas utilization. It will also provide, for the first time, an opportunity to look at emerging technologies for the utilization of flared gas.
The GGFR partnership estimates that globally at least 150 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas are flared or burned every year, causing about 400 million tons of carbon dioxide in annual emissions. The U.S. EPA estimates that over 100 bcm of methane is vented or lost through fugitive methane emissions in the oil and gas sector each year. As methane is 21 times as potent a greenhouse gas as CO2, this adds the equivalent of over 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually. Altogether, this is more than twice the potential yearly emission reductions from projects currently submitted under the Kyoto mechanisms.
The major flaring region in the world is Russia and the Caspian (about 60 bcm); followed by the Middle East and North Africa (about 45 bcm). Sub-Saharan Africa (about 35 bcm) is the third-biggest flaring region, followed by Latin America with some 12 bcm of gas flared annually.
“Reducing natural gas flaring, methane venting and fugitive emissions from oil and natural gas production are part of the solution to the global climate challenge,” says Dina Kruger, director of EPA’s Climate Change Division. “By working together through partnerships like the GGFR and Methane to Markets, the oil and gas sector can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase production, generate revenue, and provide communities with a clean and reliable energy source.”
The event will bring together government officials from oil producing countries, representatives from major oil and gas companies, technology and service providers, and potential financiers, in a unique platform for dialogue, best practices exchange, and potential business opportunities. Countries and companies represented include Angola, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Nigeria and Russia, as well as Shell, Chevron, Total, BP, ExxonMobil, Petrobras, StatoilHydro, Pemex, Pertamina, Sonangol, NNPC, and Lukoil.
Gabon, Iraq, the European Union, and Azerbaijan are some of the newest partners who have joined the GGFR partnership over the past few months, and more are expected to do so in the coming months.
The top 20 major flaring countries in the world, according to the latest satellite data available, include: Russia, Nigeria, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Algeria, Libya, Angola, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, China, Indonesia, Kuwait, Venezuela, Uzbekistan, the United States, Oman, Mexico, Malaysia and Gabon.
What is gas flaring?
When crude oil is brought to the surface from several kilometers below, gas associated with such oil extraction usually comes to the surface as well. If oil is produced in areas of the world which lack gas infrastructure or a nearby gas market, a significant portion of this associated gas may be released into the atmosphere, un-ignited (vented) or ignited (flared).
Launched at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in August 2002, the GGFR public-private partnership brings around the table representatives of governments of oil-producing countries, state-owned companies and major international oil companies so that they can together overcome the barriers to reducing gas flaring by sharing global best practices and implementing country specific programs in gas flaring countries, with funding provided in part by the European Union, the World Bank, oil companies and donor countries.
GGFR partners and donors
The GGFR partnership, managed and facilitated by a team at the World Bank in Washington, DC, includes the following partners: Algeria (Sonatrach), Angola (Sonangol), Azerbaijan, Cameroon, Canada (CIDA), Chad, Ecuador (PetroEcuador), Equatorial Guinea, France, Gabon, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Khanty-Mansijsysk (Russia), Nigeria, Norway, the United States (DOE); BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ENI, ExxonMobil, Marathon Oil, Shell, StatoilHydro, TOTAL; OPEC Secretariat, European Union, the World Bank and the IFC.