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Russia Moves To Rein In Gas Flaring, Mandating 95% Gas Capture by 2012; Signals About-Face On Climate Change

by Jack Rosebro

Russiaflaring
A view of Russian gas flaring based on satellite observations. Source: US NOAA and the World Bank-led Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership. (Video) Click to enlarge.

The Russian government has ordered oil companies to take steps to capture up to 95% of the natural gases associated with petroleum extraction, in a bid to recover the “billions of rubles” worth of natural gas that is emitted into the atmosphere every year via gas flaring, according to the Kremlin.

During his 12 November address to the Russian parliament, President Dmitry Medvedev presented gas flaring as one of the country’s more egregious examples of wasted energy resources. “The government has discussed the issue on many occasions, and has promised to put an end to this disgrace. We really do need to take quick and decisive action, and no objections from the [oil] production companies should be accepted”, Medvedev stated.

Medvedev’s remarks were quickly followed by an executive order from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, directing oil companies to achieve 95% recapture rate by 2012. Russia has floated a 95% gas flaring target since at least 2007, but wrangling between the Energy and Natural Resources ministries has up to now rendered the target ineffective.

“I published my proposal to reflect on how we can overcome our chronic backwardness... We have not freed ourselves from a primitive economic structure and humiliating dependence on raw materials.”

—President Dmitry Medvedev

Estimates have put flaring losses as high as 75% of all natural gas extracted in Russia, or about 20 billion cubic meters per year. By comparison, Russia’s projected South Stream gas pipeline is estimated by some to have a capacity of around 63 billion cubic meters per year, while the rival US/EU backed Nabucco pipeline is projected to have a maximum capacity of around 31 billion cubic meters per year.

President Medvedev has also indicated a sharp reversal of Russia’s policy on climate change within the past week, replacing the previous policy of relative indifference with proposed cuts of 22 to 25% below a 1990 emissions baseline. Such a target would nevertheless allow an emissions increase above current levels, as Russia’s greenhouse gas emissions have been in decline for twenty years, due in part to the collapse of the country’s inefficient smokestack industries as well as the recent economic decline. It is estimated that Russia’s 2007 greenhouse gas emissions were a full 34% below 1990 levels.

During the Asia Pacific summit in Singapore last week, Medvedev termed climate change as having the potential for “catastrophic consequences”.

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Comments

sulleny

Medvedev could give a rats a$$ about climate change. He wants 30% more revenues from his NG sales. And he'll get them by capturing the previously flared NG. It's called energy production efficiency.

Gorr

I say to not flare away natural gas too in u.s.a, canada, england, saudi arabia, venezuela, qatar, malaysia, nigeria, united emirats, town sewage, etc and put that gas for sale near where i live along a cheap natural gas conversion for my dodge neon 2005 5 speeds manual.

SJC

There is a LOT of natural gas flared off around the world. Economics says that it is not worth while, but common sense says that it would be good to use that natural gas. If it is remote, convert it to methanol, LNG, fertilizer or synthetic fuels. This should be a world wide effort that needs to be done up and above other considerations.

JamesEE

I wonder about the economics of fertilizer manufacture. If gas can be bought for next to nothing where it's being flared, the capital investment in the plant is the main expense. There are also labor costs, and the cost of transportation of the final product to a market.

Can fertilizer plants be modularized, and maybe even be made transportable by truck or rail. Would that be an advantage? How long is gas typically flared from a given location? If this is economical I'd think somebody would be doing it.

fred

This IS mostly about "stranded" gas. There are HUGE amounts that have to be flared. If only cuz they are out in the middle of nowhere and ya just cant build a pipeline to every place. No doubt a technology to capture and liquify easily could/should be developed, but there will ALWAYS be the economic reality hanging over this commodity. Price fluctuations simply KILL this great energy source.

arnold

"Russia Moves To Rein In Gas Flaring, Mandating 95% Gas Capture by 2012; Signals About-Face On Climate Change"

fred, I agree - but. You should also read the headline.

Then go outside, do three back-flips and sing a little song.

Arn

Alex Kovnat

I cannot emphasize enough how offended my sensibilities are, by flaring natural gas.

If buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is serious enough to warrant 35+ MPG CAFE requirements for cars (automobile-haters in California want to make this 43 MPG), then its serious enough to STOP FLARING NATURAL GAS and either convert it to methanol or other liquids, or transport it by ship to where it could be put to good use.

And while I'm at it, I'd also like to suggest that if CO2-buildup is a problem, the world's governments should also do research on putting out underground coal fires.

pINHEAD

Russian oil companies were supposed to have been doing this already. In 98 our Russian JV partners were building and selling gas turbine electrical generators for oilfields. We sold one I think which goes to show you how seriously the oil companies took the law. Of course now all the oil companies have been nationalized (all owned by Gazprom) so I guess this might happen.

Sam

when anyone says "the economics don't work out" on any waste reduction/reuse projects, we need a strong innovative private sector that is solving these problems, not just trying to maintain the status quo. obviously our large companies invest in R and D, but how much of that is addressing the issue of reduce waste rather than increased revenues? as resources become scarce/regulated the companies/peoples/nations that have focused on these problems will be successful.

Hoosier Ron

"Signals About-Face On Climate Change"

You're joking, right? This has nothing -- zilch -- zippo -- to do with climate change. Putin views Russia's natural gas just like its oil, its gold or its timber. It is a natural asset to be sold. It is wealth, which means it is strength. Putin would not allow the state mining company to flush gold ore into the ocean, and he will not allow the state oil company to throw away the Motherland's natural gas resources. Wealth=power.

You are a fool if you think this has anything to do with the climate.

SJC

It is the green for the planet and the green in the pocket book. If it saves or makes money then many are all for it and if it happens to be good for us, the planet and national security then all the better.

richard schumacher

If you want to stop the flaring of natural gas, institute a tax of $50 per ton on fossil carbon. Operators of coal-fired power plants will fall all over themselves to convert to NG.

Reel$$

"Signals About-Face On Climate Change"

You're joking, right? This has nothing -- zilch -- zippo -- to do with climate change.


These references will be slowly expunged from science as the gravity of corruption in the climate change campaign sinks in.

SJC

It seems to be economics yet again. It is just not "cost effective" to use the stranded natural gas when the price goes up and down in an unregulated market. We know that it would be good to use the flare gas for a value added product, but when there is not a ton of money to be made, it is not done.

Steve

Here is the solution to flaring natural gas,by a company in Dallas,Texas. www.synfuels.com

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