The chief executives of eight leading oil and gas companies held a joint press conference in Paris last week to outline their commitment to tackling climate change – including collaborating to place effective curbs on gas flaring at refineries.
The flaring of natural gas, which is released as a by-product of oil extraction and processing, has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years. According to estimates by the World Bank, gas flaring introduces around 300 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year – equivalent to the emissions of around 77 million cars – and contributes directly to climate change.
Other bodies suggest even higher figures. An EC-commissioned study by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) in 2014 claims that the flaring of natural gas releases more than “400 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions globally every year”.
While many nations have regulations in place to prevent or reduce flaring, the practice remains commonplace by oil firms in many regions – particularly in countries which currently lack the infrastructure to capture, transport and utilise the natural gas as an energy resource in its own right. The highest levels of flaring, according to World Bank estimates, occur in Russia and Nigeria.
The oil companies whose bosses met in Paris – including BP, Total, Statoil and Saudi Aramco – seem keen to pre-empt this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (due to be held in December) by proactively trying to reach industry agreement on controversial issues such as flaring.
Total’s CEO Patrick Pouyanne commented: “Sometimes in all these discussions you have the impression that all fossil fuels are the bad guys. But the bad guys are part of the solution … Policy makers are not convinced in many countries that gas is part of the solution for climate change; we in the industry need to speak up.”
Whether natural gas flaring is curbed by industry agreement, national or international regulation, the accuracy of estimates of flaring volumes – often achieved by satellite observation – has been debatable. At Fluenta we believe highly accurate flow measurement technology has an important part to play in monitoring, controlling and ultimately reducing natural gas flaring in the Oil & Gas industry in the years to come.