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GE study finds 5% of world’s natural gas production wasted per year by flaring

Gas-flaring countries and trends. Click to enlarge.

A newly released GE studyFlare Gas Reduction: Recent Global Trends and Policy Considerations—estimates that 5% of the world’s natural gas production is wasted by burning or “flaring” unused gas each year, despite some progress on the flaring issue. This is an amount equivalent to 30% of consumption in the European Union and 23% in the United States.

Gas flaring emits 400 million metric tons of CO2 annually, the same as 77 million automobiles, without producing useful heat or electricity. Worldwide, billions of cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas are wasted annually, typically as a by-product of oil extraction.

The study finds that the technologies required for a solution exist now. Depending on region, these may include power generation; gas re-injection (for enhanced oil recovery, gathering and processing); pipeline development and distributed energy solutions. Nearly $20 billion in wasted natural gas could be used to generate electricity and yield billions of dollars per year in increased global economic output.

A lack of technology solutions is not the problem; gas flaring can be dealt with today through a variety of existing technologies at reasonable cost...However, often regional political complexities and lack of gas infrastructure systems drive the decision to flare gas.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the next phase of flare gas eradication will require a major, coordinated effort from central and regional governments, oil and gas producers, technology providers, and the international community. The role that each party plays differs by region.

—“Flare Gas Reduction”

The report provides a region-by-region analysis of gas flaring trends, including:

  • Within the Russian Federation, by some measures the world’s largest source of flare gas emissions, as much as 50 billion cubic meters of natural gas produced is wasted annually. If half of this flare gas (25 bcm per year) was captured and sold at prevailing domestic prices in Russia, the economic opportunity may exceed US$2 billion (65 billion rubles). A significant portion of this waste could be avoided with modest policy efforts and greater emphasis on investments in power generation and gas processing technologies.

  • Although Nigeria has reduced flare gas emissions by 28% from 2000 levels, the country’s oil industry still wastes 15bcm of natural gas every year. While nearly half of the population has no access to electricity, the country spends nearly $13 billion per year on diesel-powered generation and perhaps 10GW of potential electricity is flared away. Successful capture and flare gas utilization could potentially triple per capita electricity consumption for this nation of 155 million people.

  • Elsewhere in West Africa, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo and Cameroon collectively waste about 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas every year.

  • Low natural gas prices and higher costs related to capturing flare gas in the Middle East inadvertently encourage the wasteful burning of unused gas.

Making better use of vented and flared gas is a tremendous opportunity. It will help slow global warming while also saving scarce natural resources. While this issue has been on the radar screen for some time, many countries still waste massive amounts of gas through flaring and venting.

—David Victor, director of the Laboratory on International Law & Regulation at the University of California San Diego

The study highlights the following recommendations to reduce gas flaring:

  • Strengthen international commitments. The next phase of flare gas eradication requires a coordinated effort from central and regional governments, oil and gas producers, technology providers and the international community. These efforts must include both proper punitive actions and incentives to encourage investment.

  • Advance local solutions. Local efforts are critical to flare gas reduction. Governments, producers and technology providers across the globe must cooperate to communicate the value of gas, including greater efficiency; highlight the financial benefits associated with gas flaring reduction; secure local government support for monitoring and enforcing flaring regulations; and build capacity that helps local investors and contractors develop, operate and service distributed power generation.

  • Expand access to financing. Local efforts require capital support, including investments in pipeline, processing and storage, which make it economically efficient to gather and utilize flare gas. Various forms of credit enhancement, including partial risk guarantees, are one option to support investment while policy reforms are underway. Targeted technology funds and carbon partnerships also can facilitate projects, along with carbon financing and expanded eligibility for flare gas reduction within the United Nations Clean Development Mechanism.




I guess a lot of that is from offshore oil production, it should be possible to use LNG handling technologies to move the gas. Guess it just comes down to price which will mean if its economic it will be done


Fuels is the profitable route. Shell sent platforms to the north to turn natural gas into fuel and tanker it back.


Many of those streams have to be too small to be economical to capture. For those, turnkey gas recompression systems may be the key. A system which arrives in a shipping container and pumps gas down a reinjection well is going to be easier than something which has to be custom-built on site.

Something which generates electricity as a co-product could be used to benefit locals and make the oil operations a better neighbor.


If you say so, you have spoken so you must know the situation and what is best for everyone.


SJC - please. You know EP is the guru of GCC and all things green. Do not question the self-anointed!

If you say so, you have spoken so you must know the situation and what is best for everyone.
If you don't believe me, go ask the people who are always talking about "stranded gas".

GE has the technology though its Jenbacher division to utilise flare gas and other low heating value gaseous fuels in cost-effective gensets to generate electricity. Refineries and gas pipeline companies should be compelled through banning the practice of flare gas burn-off or release so that they can be converted while producing something useful out of it.


I just got done mentioning stranded gas before this showed up, but I don't claim than making fuel at the site is the ONLY way. Shell sent CTL SHIPS to the platforms. Once they are done, they move on to the next location.

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