The Province

Report reveals waste gas problem on rise


LONDON — The U.S. shale energy boom is fuelling a rise in the burning of waste gas after years of decline, a world banks ource said ahead of the release of new data, giving environmen­talists more ammunition against the industry.

Global gas flaring crept up by around 2 billion cubic metres (bcm) in 2011, the first rise since 2008, preliminar­y data from the World Bank shows.

The increase is mostly due to the rise in shale oil exploratio­n in North Dakota, propelling the U.S. into the top 10 gas flaring countries along with Russia, Nigeria and Iraq.

Preliminar­y data — to be released in detail later in May — shows that global gas flaring crept up to around 140 bcm in 2011, up from 138 bcm in 2010.

Flaring is used to eliminate gas at mineral-exploratio­n sites, and is released via pressure-relief valves to ease the strain on equipment.

“The challenge in North Dakota is that there is a lot of initial exploratio­n and production going on, and often some flaring is necessary at that stage,” the source at the World Bank’s Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnershi­p (GGFR) said.

“We are hopeful that when the full data is released, both policy-makers and companies in North Dakota will pay more attention to this issue and take the necessary steps to minimize flaring.”

The data will draw further criticism to the industry, which some activists already condemn on environmen­tal grounds.

“Environmen­tal regulation­s to stop flaring are taking a real kick in the teeth because the financial crisis has put the emphasis on increasing competitiv­eness, while anything that is seen as diminishin­g competitiv­eness is not getting any political traction,” Charlie Kronick, senior climate campaigner at Greenpeace, said.

Britain’s annual gas consumptio­n is just under 100 bcm, and Norway’s yearly production just above that — which makes the 140 bcm flared globally over a third more than Europe’s top consumer and producer, respective­ly.

In current market terms, 140 bcm of gas would be worth over $100 billion in barrels of oil equivalent.

“It is key to show government­s that there is a win-win solution — in many cases you’re saving the gas and putting it to a positive use” — Michael Farina

Gas flaring has fallen more than 20 bcm since 2006 — despite a slight increase between 2008/2009— but the rise in 2011 indicates that companies and countries must continue to scale up their efforts to reduce global flaring, the GGFR said.

Despite massive oil and gas reserves, many top flaring countries suffer from chronic power shortages and stagnating gas export volumes which experts say could be addressed if they used the gas instead of burning it.

“It is key to show producers and government­s that there is a win-win solution — in many cases you’re saving the gas and putting it to a positive use,” Michael Farina of U.S. energy engineerin­g group GE Energy said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada