19 Nov 2021

Writing is on the wall for routine flaring despite COP reprieve

flaring, gas, oil, cop26, emissions, methane, carbon
 
  • Written By

    Billy Morley, Global Head of Oil and Gas, Aggreko

  • Published in

Gas should be captured and either used on-site or transported somewhere where it can be utilised.

Methane was singled out as one of the main villains of this year’s COP26 summit in Glasgow – and rightly so, given that the greenhouse gas is roughly 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeline. This translated into a global pledge led by the US and EU at the conference to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030 (versus 2020 levels), and into far-reaching regulations on home-soil from the Biden administration.

So far so good, but astute observers will have noted that by focusing the spotlight so squarely on methane, world leaders passed-up on the opportunity to shine it on routine flaring. In fact, a simplistic interpretation of the news might see an observer be encouraged about the prospects for flaring. After all, flaring is often the responsible alternative to venting – the practice of releasing methane-rich natural gas in its raw form into the atmosphere.

Drawing that conclusion would be a mistake, however. The writing is on the wall for routine flaring and had been for a long time before the current climate conference. The World Bank’s Zero Routine Flaring by 2030 initiative is just one heavyweight programme aimed at curtailing the practice. Besides this, if we’re serious about slashing methane emissions, flaring is not the solution in the long-term. Incomplete combustion can still allow for significant methane emissions, and gas flaring is thought to account for as much as 2% of the oil and gas industry’s methane emissions globally.

The only real answer to whether it’s better to vent or flare is neither. Instead, gas should be captured and either used on-site or transported somewhere where it can be utilised. In fact, doing so can save (or make) operators money and often displace even more carbon-intensive liquid fuels. So why does routine flaring persist as a practice? It’s important to recognise that there is a technical solution for almost every flare but often the financial barriers to implementation stop projects in their tracks.

However, these barriers are all surmountable in our new insight paper Overcoming the top 3 hurdles to eliminate flaring. This is reassuring for the oil and gas sector for, although COP 26 has cast methane as the villain du jour, routine flaring’s days are surely numbered.

 

Download our insight paper

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Overcoming the top 3 hurdles to eliminate flaring - insight paper

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