Warsaw 1 October 2013
As the exploitation of oil and gas increases to meet needy global demand and the so called net energy security of North America. The flaring of gas increases significantly worldwide. Many Countries like the United States who recently increased exploitation of new oil and gas fields not the least as a result of new fracking technologies do so at a terrific cost to the environment.
The Scale Of Flaring
Before 2010 flaring worldwide accounted for approximately 400 million cubic meters of gas per year. This creates emissions equivalent to over half a percent of total hydrocarbon and GHG fuel emissions worldwide today. Experts warn that flaring of gas for new fields and especially in North America presents a critical increase in GHG emissions which can soon account for as much as 1% of of all hydrocarbon GHG fuel emissions worldwide if not contained.
Some aspects of the US Oil and Gas Industry for example “Light tight oil” is expanding at more than 50% growth per year as the US is heading for net exporter status. This level of growth accounts for flaring on a massive scale. Flaring gas locally creates much harm to the environment flaring endangers the health of those who live and work in the neighborhood. The real impact of GHG emissions can be secondary to local risks.
Smash And Grab
The current level of expansion of oil production in the United States comes at a huge cost to the environment. As new production starts, flaring is the only immediate economic solution to gas emission and with no better economic alternative till the gas piping infrastructure catches up. The economic reality in the Bakken for example is that as more gas gets piped the lower the cost and the less commercially attractive installing infrastructure becomes, no one is in a real hurry to install gas lines. Extracting oil is faster and far more profitable
For as long as large corporate Oil and Gas organizations control their own site procedures and fund their own research for methodology flaring gas now to profit from Oil now takes priority over waiting for the gas installations to get connected and the risk of lower Oil prices when they do.
An Environment For A Killing
One major Oil and Gas producer recently hit back at a North American journalist investigating the extinction of 7500 songbirds. An endangered species which flew into extinction at a gas flare in Canaport St. John created a local environmental outcry. Representatives of the Oil and Gas producer defense was that a policy of not flaring gas would release massive amounts of methane into the atmosphere far more damaging than the CO2 released from flaring gas.
A gas flare of such a magnitude as in Canaport St. John has no excuse and to create extinction of wild life on this scale only further damages the reputation of the Oil and Gas Industry. A spokesman for the Canaport facility concluded that the death of the songbirds was trivial compared to normal conditions. With some Oil and Gas firms heading for profits over 700 million USD in 2013 giving up the environment clearly demonstrates real killings which are definitely far from trivial.
Giving Up One Resource To Profit From Another
The fact is that before the recent outcry in the United States the development of exploitation of the new Bakken Oil and Gas fields [and many others] recently became clearly visible from Space. North Dakota’s Oil fields alone are flaring over one third of all gas produced critics have valued this wanton waste in excess of 100 Million USD per month.
Oil and Gas producers who openly blame low gas prices for the flaring would really need to rework their sustainability plans to “pull the wool over a Europeans eyes.” Many Europeans can only wonder at the statements of the US Oil and Gas producers. Who wouldn’t find their statements suspect since such massive profits are made from the Oil they extract?
GTL At A Snails Pace
Its not just new modular GTL [gas to liquid] technologies which are most capable of turning almost any gas flare into a quality Synthesis gas and to convert that on the fly into the building blocks for our everyday fuels. Such technologies were “well” developed for small scale operations and obviating the need to flare even before the 1940’s.
Unfortunately the majority of GTL projects are Oil and Gas owned and controlled and are not in any hurry to emerge until entirely necessary. Although on the face of things GTL projects are very well financed they are well controlled for field development by the self regulating Oil and Gas industry and without their engagement being at least legislated for can have little impact.
GTL was well developed historically through the FT synthetic fuel process much unfortunately in the German work camps of WWII. As the outcry in the United States is finally being heard for the first time in history, these so called sinister technologies will out and they can be finally put to good use keeping flares out of fashion for good.