World Bank, Partners Kick off New Phase, Renew Commitment to Gas Flaring Reduction
Participants at Middle East Forum on Flaring Reduction and Gas Utilization in Muscat August 18, 2010
There is no turning back for the World Bank-led Global Gas Flaring Reduction (GGFR) partnership. Representatives from more than 25 oil-producing countries and companies have renewed, for the third time, their commitment to reducing the burning of natural gas associated to oil production. The practice wastes a valuable energy resource and harms the environment.
The commitment from the GGFR partners is no surprise and reflects that tackling the gas flaring challenge also helps addressing some of the broader energy issues that countries and companies from around the world are facing today.
What are some of these broader issues?
"Gas flaring reduction is not just a technical or economic issue that the oil industry and oil producing countries have to deal with, but is a relevant dimension of today’s energy and environmental debate."|Bent Svensson, Program Manager, Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership
The first one is climate change and energy efficiency. The policy response to climate change is focused on two dimensions: climate change mitigation and climate change adaptation. Reducing greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide from gas flaring will certainly contribute to mitigation efforts and greater energy efficiency.
The second one is energy access. The lack of access to electric power in various countries causes the loss of productivity and economic growth but also jeopardizes the achievement of poverty reduction goals in regions around the world. A key utilization of flared gas in many developing countries is the generation of power. Thus, generating electricity with natural gas that otherwise would be flared can broaden the access to a cleaner source of energy.
And the third one is energy security. With a growing and better-off population around the world, it is no surprise that there is a growing demand for energy. However, there is also great uncertainty about whether cleaner energy supply will be able to meet this demand. Avoiding the unnecessary waste of a valuable and clean resource like natural gas increases the supply of a domestic energy resource in many countries.
“Gas flaring reduction is not just a technical or economic issue that the oil industry and oil producing countries have to deal with, but is a relevant dimension of today’s energy and environmental debate,” explains Bent Svensson, program manager of the Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership (GGFR). “And in this debate, everyone is looking for win-win solutions that mitigate climate change, provide access to cleaner sources of energy and increase economic growth. And gas flaring reduction has the potential to do precisely that.”
"It’s important to remember that the green credentials of oil producing countries and companies are going to be measured by their own efficiency in exploiting and delivering energy."|Paulo De Sa, Manager, Oil, Gas, and Mining Policy Division, The World Bank
The World Bank-led GGFR partnership, launched at the Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002, plays a critical role in several oil producing countries around the world to foster a greater utilization of associated gas, thus reducing the waste of some 150 billion cubic meters (bcm) of associated gas and at least 400 million tons of annual greenhouse gas emissions.
GGFR brings around the table major stakeholders from the public and private sectors to tackle the barriers (lack of infrastructure, markets, regulations, etc) that inhibit a greater utilization of associated gas.
A new phase
In this context, the GGFR partnership recently kicked off a new phase of work and is rapidly gaining momentum with the recent inclusion of Mexico and Pemex as official partners, the successful organization this year of two major regional conferences in Oman and Kazakhstan, and the recent welcoming of Finland’s Wärtsilä as the first Associated Partner.
Welcoming Finland's Wartsila as the first Associated PartnerAt a Steering Committee meeting in Paris at the end of March, GGFR partners officially launched the third phase of the World Bank-led initiative covering the period 2010-2012. The work program for this third phase focuses on implementing concrete gas flaring reduction projects in high-impact countries across the Middle East and North Africa, Europe and Central Asia, Africa, the Americas, and East Asia.
GGFR’s main work will focus on key anchor countries –Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Qatar and Russia- and on activities in other countries of those regions, such as Central Asia, that may directly lead to larger flare reduction projects or programs.
The work program for the next three years include policy and regulatory advice in high-impact countries; facilitation of government-operators dialogue in Nigeria (Nigeria Flare Reduction Committee) Qatar, Gabon, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan; project development and facilitation in Nigeria, Mexico, Russia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Iraq and Azerbaijan; and Country Implementation Plans/Associated Gas Recovery Plans assistance in Qatar, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Gabon and Azerbaijan.
Top flaring countries
Satellite data on global gas flaring, which is a joint effort between GGFR and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), show that overall efforts to reduce gas flaring are paying off. Since 2005, the global estimate for gas flaring has continued to decrease and was estimated at 138 bcm in 2008. For comparison, global gas flaring in 2005 was estimated at 171 bcm per year, one of the highest estimates in the last ten years. That’s a reduction of 33 bcm since 2005.
Satellite data for 2009, however, shows that there is no room for complacency. According to latest figures global gas flaring levels are at 146 billion cubic meters (bcm), an increase of eight bcm from the previous year. The main increase in 2009 is coming from Russia (+ 6 bcm) and Iraq (+1.3 bcm), where there has also been an increase in oil production which could partially explain the increased flaring. The GGFR team is reviewing the data to gain more insight into other variables that will help better understand the increase of gas flaring in both countries.
The ranking of top flaring countries includes Russia leading the list, followed by Nigeria, Iran and Iraq. The other six countries that make up the top 10 flaring countries for 2009 include: Kazakhstan, Algeria, Angola, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.
Woman next to gas flare in Nigeria, Photo Credit: Ed Kashi“It’s important to remember that the green credentials of oil producing countries and companies are going to be measured by their own efficiency in exploiting and delivering energy,” says Paulo de Sa, manager of the World Bank’s Oil, Gas and Mining Policy Division. “In the case of the oil industry, this simply means reducing flaring and venting to minimum levels and using the associated gas more productively.”