WPC's global membership will have a role to play in the transition to a low-carbon future. With oil as the main fuel for transport around the world, it will remain a key part of the energy mix while alternative technologies continue to be developed further. We also must not forget all of the oil and gas based items, around us every day, such as pharmaceuticals, clothing, polymers, fertilisers, the list is endless. The WPC was in Paris for COP21 to support and encourage governments and all stakeholders in their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and manage the risks of climate change. We also appreciate that they have a challenge ahead to meet their growing population’s energy demands and support economic development in their countries. We were also in Paris to lend our support to World Bank initiative The “Zero Routine Flaring by 2030”. The well attended COP side meeting highlighted the high number of WPC member countries that have already signed up to the initiative and illustrated how well this fits in with our energy poverty alleviation work.
Satellite photographs before (left) and after, Algeria 1997
Zero Routine Flaring by 2030
Natural gas is a mixture of several hydrocarbon gases, including methane (normally around 90%), ethane, propane, butane and pentane, as well as carbon dioxide, nitrogen and hydrogen sulphide. The composition of natural gas can vary widely, depending on the oil or gas field. Natural gas is referred to as “wet” when hydrocarbons other than methane are present, “dry” when it is almost pure methane, and “sour” when it contains significant amounts of hydrogen sulphide.
In the 1990s WPC worked on a methane venting flaring reduction programme with the IEA, World Bank and industry partners. At that time, just Africa and mainly Nigeria flared and vented more natural gas than Europe consumed every year. The project only lasted a few years but satellite photographs showed some significant early results.
During conventional and unconventional oil production, associated gas is produced from the reservoir together with the oil. Much of this gas (mostly methane) is now utilised or conserved because governments and oil companies have made substantial investments to capture it; nevertheless, some of it is flared because of safety, technical, regulatory, or economic constraints. As a result, thousands of gas flares at oil production sites around the globe burn approximately 140 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually, causing more than 300 million tons of CO2 to be emitted to the atmosphere.
In the 90s we were concerned and we still are as although the emissions are now only 25% of what Europe consumes, Europe is consuming much more than it was in the 90s.
Zero Routine Flaring by 2030
Governments that endorse the Initiative will provide a legal, regulatory, investment, and operating environment that is conducive to upstream investments and to the development of viable markets for utilization of the gas and the infrastructure necessary to deliver the gas to these markets. This will provide companies the confidence and incentive as a basis for investing in flare elimination solutions.
Oil companies that endorse the Initiative will develop new oil fields they operate according to plans that incorporate sustainable utilization or conservation of the field’s associated gas without routine flaring. Oil companies with routine flaring at existing oil fields they operate will seek to implement economically viable solutions to eliminate this legacy flaring as soon as possible, and no later than 2030.
Development institutions that endorse the Initiative will facilitate cooperation and implementation, and consider the use of financial instruments and other measures, particularly in their client countries. They will endeavor to do so also in client countries that have not endorsed the Initiative.