Up to 170 billion cubic meters of natural gas is burned off by the world's oil producers every
year with enormous economic and environmental costs.
In spite of all the recent talk about climate change, the Kyoto Protocol and tight energy resources in Europe, the oil industry continues to burn huge volumes of natural gas that rises from oil deposits on land or under the sea.
Over 20 countries have increased the practice of "flaring" in the last 12 years, and some burn far more gas on drilling platforms and in oil fields than they've admitted, officially, so far.
America's weather-data department, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), came to this conclusion in a new report based on American satellite data. The study was financed by the World Bank, which five years ago started a global initiative to change the long-established practice of flaring gas and to capture it for energy use instead.
According to the NOAA, oil producers torch from 150 to 170 billion cubic meters (5,200 to 6,000 billion cubic feet) of natural gas per year. This amounts to more than five percent of global natural-gas production. "If the gas were sold in the United States," write the authors, "it would have a market value of around $40 billion."
Bent Svensson, head of the Global Gas Flaring Reduction Initiative at the World Bank, emphasizes the sheer volume of waste: "If we just took the 40 billion cubic meters of gas that are burned off in Africa every year, and burned them instead in modern energy plants, we could double the energy supply in sub-Saharan Africa."
Gas flaring also harms the climate. The report says that flaring produces around 400 million tons of carbon dioxide per year -- about half of Germany's CO2 output. "It amounts to 13 percent of all greenhouse gases that industrial countries need to cut by 2012, according to the Kyoto Protocol," says Svensson....MORE