News Release No. 2010/143/SDN
Mauricio Ríos (202) 458-2458
Trend is encouraging in several countries, but too much natural gas still wasted, says World Bank-led Global Gas Flaring Reduction partnership
WASHINGTON, D.C., November 17, 2009 —Global gas flaring has declined by a total of 22 billion cubic meters (bcm) over the past three years despite a 5% rise in crude oil production over the same period, according to the latest satellite study commissioned by the World Bank-led Global Gas Flaring Reduction partnership (GGFR).
The satellite estimates indicate that gas flaring peaked at about 162 bcm in 2005 and declined to 140 bcm in 2008. The survey, which was funded by the World Bank’s GGFR public-private partnership, was executed by scientists at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The decrease in gas flaring corresponds to a reduction of some 60 million tons of CO2 emissions between 2005 and 2008.
According to these satellite estimates, the ranking of top 10 flaring countries include: Russia, Nigeria, Iran, Iraq, Algeria, Kazakhstan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Angola and Qatar. Most of the gas flaring reduction is coming from Russia and Nigeria. (See table for top 20 countries below)
“These latest satellite results are certainly encouraging, but it is still too early to celebrate because much natural gas is still being wasted around the world,” says Bent Svensson, program manager of the World Bank-led GGFR partnership. “Over the next two to three years we will continue to collect and evaluate data to confirm whether this downward trend is continued.”
Flaring or burning of gas occurs to dispose of natural gas liberated during crude oil production and processing, most often in remote areas where there is no gas transportation infrastructure or local gas markets. Since its inception in 2002 the GGFR partnership has encouraged more vigorous efforts to eliminate flaring, such as re-injecting it into the ground to boost oil production, converting it into liquefied natural gas for shipment, transporting it to markets via pipelines, or using it on site for generation of electricity.
The first globally consistent survey of gas flaring was conducted using satellite data to produce a series of national and global estimates of gas flaring volumes covering a twelve-year period spanning 1995 through 2006. The latest report summarizes the progress that NOAA’s Earth Observation Group has made toward improving the estimation of gas flaring volumes from satellite observations and extends the long‐term record by adding estimations from 2007 and 2008. GGFR, which will start a third phase in 2010, also encourages on-site monitoring to help track changes in gas flaring volumes and to report progress in reducing flaring.
NOAA scientists used low-light imaging data from the U.S. Air Force Defense Meteorological Satellite Program to assess the volumes of gas burned in flares, which are visible in observations of nighttime lights under cloud-free conditions. Current and planned satellite sensors will continue to provide data suitable for estimating gas flaring volumes for years to come.
One of the most significant improvements in the utilized methodology was a comprehensive review of suspected flares using Google Earth imagery for visual confirmation. Both additional flares were detected and previously suspected lights were disqualified. Google Earth has proven to be an invaluable resource in the identification and confirmation of flares.
NOAA scientists warn, however, that satellite results should be used with caution, as there still are several sources of error and uncertainty, including variations in flare efficiency, mis-identification of flares, non-continuous sampling, and potential environmental effects.
Estimated flared volume from satellite data
Volumes in bcm
Change from 2007 to 2008
Total top 20
Rest of the world
Global flaring level
On the Web:
To access the report and country-specific data, please visit:
To learn more about the GGFR partnership and gas flaring reduction, please visit:
What is gas flaring?
When crude oil is brought to the surface from several kilometers below, gas associated with such oil extraction usually comes to the surface as well. If oil is produced in areas of the world which lack gas infrastructure or a nearby gas market, a significant portion of this associated gas may be released into the atmosphere, un-ignited (vented) or ignited (flared).
Launched at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in August 2002, the GGFR public-private partnership brings around the table representatives of governments of oil-producing countries, state-owned companies and major international oil companies so that they can together overcome the barriers to reducing gas flaring by sharing global best practices and implementing country specific programs in gas flaring countries, with funding provided in part by the European Union, the World Bank, oil companies and donor countries.
GGFR partners and donors
The GGFR partnership, managed and facilitated by a team at the World Bank in Washington, DC, includes the following partners: Algeria (Sonatrach), Angola (Sonangol), Azerbaijan, Cameroon, Canada (CIDA), Chad, Ecuador (PetroEcuador), Equatorial Guinea, France, Gabon, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Khanty-Mansijsysk (Russia), Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Qatar, the United States (DOE) and Uzbekistan; BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ENI, ExxonMobil, Marathon Oil, Maersk Oil & Gas, Shell, StatoilHydro, TOTAL, Qatar Petroleum, Pemex; OPEC Secretariat, European Union, the World Bank and the IFC.