Drillers burned off less natural gas in 2017, reversing a trend

By Christine Buurma on 7/18/2018

NEW YORK (Bloomberg) -- Oil producers around the globe burned off less natural gas last year, reversing a trend that started in 2010 and sparked concern the emissions were contributing to climate change.

About 141 Bcm (4.98 Tcf) of gas was flared in 2017, down about 5% from the previous year, according to the World Bank’s Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership, a public-private initiative to limit the practice. Flaring occurs when gas that’s produced alongside crude is burned off instead of being sold, often because there aren’t enough pipelines connecting the field to major markets.

Though Russia burned off the most gas, it also saw the biggest drop in flaring. The nation is exporting more of the fuel to Europe, where production from the continent’s largest gas field is dwindling, and has also boosted liquefied natural gas shipments to overseas buyers with the startup of a new export plant last year.

Elsewhere, the data appeared tied to fluctuations in oil supply: Flaring rose in the U.S., a nation pumping record amounts of crude from its shale plays. About 3% to 5% of gas produced in the Permian basin is flared as pipeline bottlenecks threaten oil growth, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. It also increased in Iran and Libya, where crude production has climbed, while falling Venezuela and Mexico, where output has declined.

The report comes as the World Bank and environmental groups call on oil and gas producers to rein in flaring, which boosts the carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to climate change. The U.S., Russia and Mexico are among the nations endorsing the World Bank’s initiative, which is also supported by companies from BP Plc to Gazprom PJSC.

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