GE’s ‘Flare Gas Reduction’ report puts spotlight on the Middle East

GE’s ‘Flare Gas Reduction’ report puts spotlight on the Middle East

April 13, 2011 at 01:04am

Associated gas flaring is one of the most challenging energy and environmental problems facing the world today. To help address this challenge, GE has released a study, Flare Gas Reduction: Recent Global Trends and Policy Considerations that discusses the importance of flare gas reduction and shares potential methods to achieve it.

The study estimates that 5 percent of the world’s natural gas production is wasted by burning or “flaring” unused gas each year—an amount equivalent to 2.4 million barrels of oil equivalent per day.

Gas flaring emits 400 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually, the same as 77 million automobiles and 2 percent of global CO2 emissions from energy sources, without producing useful heat or electricity. Worldwide, billions of cubic meters of natural gas are wasted annually, typically as a by-product of oil extraction.

Gas flare wastes valuable resources and damages the environment. Flare reduction investments can have a meaningful impact on the quality of life and economic progress while making measurable impacts on reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.

The GE study reports flaring levels in the Middle East are relatively high with the amount of gas flared increasing from 17.1 billion cubic metres (Bcm) per year in 2000 to 34.6 Bcm per year in 2008. The CO2 emissions from gas flaring, however, decreased from 98 million metric tons per year in 2004 to 87 million metric tons per year in 2008, and the flaring share of energy sector CO2 emissions also decreasing from 7 to 5.1 percent during the same period.

The report records a notable achievement by Saudi Arabia in managing gas flaring. The Kingdom’s master gas system mega-project, which was online in 1982, today gathers almost 100 Bcm per year and is the world’s largest single hydrocarbon network. Approximately half of the gas supply for the system comes from associated gas that was previously flared.

The GE study finds that the technologies required for a solution exist today. Depending on region, these may include power generation, gas re-injection (for enhanced oil recovery, gathering and processing), pipeline development and distributed energy solutions. Nearly US$20 billion in wasted natural gas could be used to generate reliable, affordable electricity and yield billions of dollars per year in increased global economic output.

All in all an interesting and revealing read. The full report can be downloaded here.

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