NSTA: North Sea flaring from oil and gas production halved in four years
(WO) – North Sea flaring has been cut in half following four consecutive years of reductions driven by tough measures to make UK oil and gas production cleaner, new analysis shows.
Offshore flaring fell again in 2022, by 13% to 22 Bcf of gas, contributing to a total decrease of 50% since 2018, when volumes totaled 44 Bcf.
Last year’s reduction alone was equivalent to the gas demand of 80,000 UK homes, a boost for the UK’s energy security and net zero ambitions.
About a fifth of emissions from North Sea oil and gas production activities come from flaring, which is when excess gas is burned off, mainly resulting in carbon dioxide emissions.
The NSTA started benchmarking flaring performance in 2020 and the following year issued tougher guidance, stating all new developments should have no routine flaring and venting, with zero routine flaring across all North Sea platforms, whether new or existing, by 2030 at the latest.
In addition to tracking, monitoring and reporting performance, the NSTA closely scrutinizes operators’ applications for flaring consents, pushes back against requests to increase flaring and has ordered operators to temporarily restrict production to stay within agreed limits. The NSTA has also used sanctions powers for consents breaches, with £215,000 worth of fines issued in late-2022.
Hedvig Ljungerud, NSTA Director of Strategy, said, “The NSTA expects reductions to continue and remains firmly focused on both supporting and challenging industry on emissions, including from flaring and venting.”
Backed up by its Stewardship Expectations, the NSTA regularly engages with industry to highlight best practice and has, for example, worked with operators to improve procedures to reduce flaring associated with platform restarts.
These approaches reflect the NSTA’s strategy, revised in early 2021 to oblige industry to support the UK government’s net zero 2050 target.
Industry has shown it is committed to cleaner operations, having pledged to halve overall production emissions by 2030 in the North Sea Transition Deal.
Operators have made substantial investments in equipment designed to minimize flaring, namely flare gas recovery units, each estimated to save up to 22 tonnes of flared gas per day.
Production operations coming to an end on older platforms with higher emissions has also contributed to the drop in flaring in recent years, though last year’s reduction in flaring was still against a backdrop of a 17% rise in gas production.