The value of natural gas flared by 80 different nations around the world has increased by 11 per cent to hit a global peak this year of $16.4 billion, according to new data analysed by Brainnwave*.
The data intelligence business says this is thanks to the dual effects of the rising price of natural gas and the increased volume of gas flared. The volume of natural gas lost to flaring has increased by 3.2 per cent, from 140.5 billion cubic metres in 2017 to 145 billion cubic metres in 2018.
Data intelligence business Brainnwave pinpointed gas flaring events throughout the world using night-time satellite imagery from visible infrared radiometer data. That data was then used to measure the volume of gas flared. This enabled the firm to use the mean Henry Hub spot price for natural gas in US Dollars to estimate its value.
According to Brainnwave, Russia, Iraq, Iran and the USA were the four most wasteful nations in 2018, flaring over 70 billion cubic metres of natural gas – enough to heat 38 million homes** for a year – more than all the homes in the UK and Ireland combined. It is also more gas flared than the next 30 most wasteful nations combined.
Steve Coates, CEO of Brainnwave, said: “Gas flaring is a major environmental issue but it is also a commercial one. Oil producers often lack the infrastructure to export natural gas from their wells and face few alternatives but to flare it in order to reach oil.
“Some of our customers are now using our data intelligence platform to find opportunities to provide commercial solutions, including those that convert otherwise-flared gas into power without it even leaving the site. There are commercially viable solutions to gas flaring – but they rely on the technology being available and the financial incentives to make sense.”
The volume of gas flared hit a peak in 2016. Governments, oil companies, and development institutions around the world have been encouraged to endorse the World Bank’s “Zero Routine Flaring by 2030” initiative. Current levels of gas flaring cause more than 300 million tons of CO2 to be emitted into the atmosphere***.
Image courtesy of Ken Doerr*Brainnwave has commercialised a system for pinpointing gas flaring throughout the world using night-time satellite imagery from visible infrared radiometer data. Brainnwave have successfully integrated the system into its data intelligence platform, Ossian. Brainnwave has also developed algorithms for quantifying the volume of gas flared at each site using academic papers describing methods for surveying gas flare volumes from radiant heat detected from visible infrared imaging. The algorithms developed in accordance with these published academic findings have produced good results with Brainnwave’s internal testing. When results are cross-referenced with historic estimates published by the World Bank, where estimated volumes differ, these were checked with the World Bank and agreement reached on the correct algorithms to use.
**A ‘typical’ home in a mild climate uses between 5,000 kWh and 30,000 kWh of energy a year for its heating (Ovo Energy) – we used a conservative estimate of 20,000 kWh. A cubic metre of natural gas produces around 11kWh of heat, meaning a typical home would require 1,818 cubic metres of natural gas to heat it for a year. With 70 BCM of gas flared, that is the equivalent to 38 million homes.