Why does Flaring Occurs?
In oil and gas production operations, the flaring system is essential. Flaring occurs due to the disposal issue caused by the associated gas produced with oil during the production stage. Associated gas comes from separators after gas and water have been separated from crude oil. The associated gas is generally considered a waste by-product, and there is typically no market for it. Due to economic constraints and limited infrastructure, the associated gas was often burned (flared) in the oil fields. This kind of practice is commonly called routine flaring.
Flaring also could reduce the risk of fire and explosion. Processing and storage equipment for oil and gas is often run at high pressures and temperatures. When abnormal conditions occur, the control and safety systems must release gas into the flare to prevent hazards to employees or the public. Flaring also may be required in shut-down situations to avoid a catastrophic situation occurring. Flaring for safety reasons is also known as non-routine flaring.
Flaring leads to climate change by releasing carbon dioxide and other contaminants, which affects the atmosphere. Flaring is also blamed as the cause of environmental problem such as acid rain and ozone depletion. Around 140 billion cubic meters of associated gas is flared annually by thousands of oil production sites worldwide—causing more than 300 million tons of CO2 to be emitted to the atmosphere. If this amount of associated gas were not wasted by flaring but is used as an energy source, it could meet the electricity demands of the entire African population (750bn kWh).
The environmental risk of flaring could be an economic burden to a nation. The implication of flaring could be taken by the case of Nigeria—the seventh-largest flaring country. Based on PwC analysis, to reduce gas flaring emission, 7,5 million hectares of trees need to be replanted in Nigeria. The number of trees could absorb 638 million cubic tons of carbon from gas flaring and other carbon emissions sources. It will need $94 million to rejuvenate the environment impacted by gas flaring.
Global Concerns and Commitment
Since it has an impact on the environment, flaring is becoming a global concern. Social pressure pushes oil companies to commit to greenhouse gas reduction to achieve the Paris Agreement’s goal. Various energy companies, governments, and institutions began endorsing the Zero Routine Flaring by 2030 initiative launched by the World Bank and the United Nations in 2015. The initiative is concerned with routine flaring and not with non-routine flaring for safety purposes, which can still be reduced. Oil and gas operators are asked to utilize or conserve the associated gas from its new field development and eliminate the routine flaring from its existing field no later than 2030.
The government that endorses the initiatives would be benefited from sustainable oil and gas production that would boost the nation’s prosperity. In order to achieve this, the government needs to provide a conducive environment for upstream investment and the development for flaring utilization. The oil and gas company that commits to the zero flaring initiative will benefit from gaining global recognition as a responsible oil company concerned with environmental impact. The recognition will earn public trust in oil and gas companies that would impact the business continuity.