Russia Moves To Rein In Gas Flaring, Mandating 95% Gas Capture by 2012; Signals About-Face On Climate Change
by Jack Rosebro
|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”.
Office of the President of Russia, Kremlin: Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, 12 November 2009
Neftyanikov punished with fines for gas flaring (in Russian), 15 November 2009
US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Global Gas Flaring Reduction Project, World Bank: Gas Flaring Around The World (YouTube video), 28 April 2009