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Fact Sheet: First Global Satellite Survey on Gas Flaring

Background on NOAA/World Bank’s First Global Satellite Survey

  • Several satellite systems have a capability to detect gas flares based on the radiative emissions from the flames.
  • NOAA has produced annual estimates of global and national gas flaring for 60 countries, from 1995 through 2006, using low light imaging data acquired by the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP).
  • The estimates are based on a calibration developed with a pooled set of reported national gas flaring volumes and data from individual flares.

Key Messages

  • Global gas flaring has remained largely stable over the past twelve years, in the range of 150 to 170 billion cubic meters (BCM). Flaring adds about 400 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year.
  • In 2006 the global gas flaring estimate of 168 BCM represents 27% of the natural gas consumption of the USA with a potential market value of US$40 billion.
  • By providing independent estimates of gas flaring volumes, satellite observations could play a key role in managing efforts to reduce gas flaring, particularly since several governments have not known the magnitude of the flaring.
  • Through these satellite observations, governments and international/national petroleum companies will be able to better assess the efficacy of efforts made to reduce gas flaring.
  • Gas flaring wastes valuable resources and harms the environment, and thus reducing gas flaring is a concrete contribution to reduce global warming. Capture and use of the flared gas is an obvious candidate in efforts to reduce global carbon emissions. It is a so called low-hanging fruit relative to other carbon emissions reductions.
  • Gas flaring reduction is relevant in the context of energy security and climate change mitigation, desirable for obvious environmental reasons, and feasible as demonstrated by several countries.

What Satellite Observations Show

  • Decreasers: Sixteen countries (or areas) exhibited a downward trend in gas flaring from 1995 to 2006, including Algeria, Argentina, Bolivia, Cameroon, Chile, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Libya, Nigeria, North Sea, Norway, Peru, Syria, UAE and USA (offshore).
  • Algeria, Libya and Syria had decreases greater than 2 BCM since 1995.
  • Increasers: Twenty-two countries have an upward trend in gas flaring over the time series. This includes Azerbaijan, Chad, China, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritania, Myanmar, Oman, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sudan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.
  • The three countries with the largest increases are Russia (excluding Khanty-Mansiysk region) with a gain of 10 BCM, Kazakhstan (+5 BCM) and Iraq (+4 BCM).
  • Stable Flaring: Nine countries had largely stable gas flaring across the time series. In some cases there were ups and downs – but no obvious trend. This includes Australia, Ecuador, Gabon, Iran, Kuwait, Malaysia, Khanty-Mansiysk (region in Russian Federation), Romania, and Trinidad.
  • Peak-In-The-Middle: Thirteen countries had peaks in gas flaring between the end points of the time series – but nearly the same quantity of gas flaring in recent years as in the mid-1990. This includes Angola, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Colombia, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Irish Sea (UK), Mexico, Tunisia, Venezuela and Vietnam.

Satellite study vs. Official Data

  • Seven of the countries on the GGFR top-twenty list, based on official data, are not in the satellite top-twenty compilation – including the USA, Equatorial Guinea, Mexico, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Congo, and the United Kingdom.
  • Added to the list in their place are Saudi Arabia, China, Oman, North Sea (which includes UK and other countries around the North Sea), Uzbekistan, Malaysia and Egypt

Sources of Error and Uncertainty

There are a number of sources of uncertainty and error in the results of this study. To the extent to which these errors are present in the calibration data these sources of uncertainty contribute to the +/- 1.61 BCM prediction interval (margin of error).

The main sources of error or uncertainty include: errors in the reported flare volume data; non-continuous sampling; mis-identification of flares; variations in flare efficiency; and environmental effects.

World Bank Contact: Mauricio Ríos;; (202) 458-2458

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