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Fossils’ Flaring Wastes Enough Gas to Power Africa, Emits 350 Megatonnes Per Year

Tim Hurst/flickr
Tim Hurst/flickr

Fossil companies are flaring—in other words, wasting—enough natural gas at oil production sites to meet all of Africa’s current electricity demand, while emitting 350 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, according to analysis by the Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership, a project of the World Bank.

And that activity was most recently on a slight upward trend, growing from 141 billion cubic metres (bcm) in 2013 to 145 bcm in 2014 and 147 bcm in 2015.

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“The oil and gas industry has to step up and acknowledge that it’s time to change the way they do business,” a Bank official told Climate News Network. While a number of governments and fossil companies agreed in the lead-up to the Paris climate conference to phase out gas flaring by 2030, correspondent Kieran Cooke notes that fossil giants ExxonMobil and Chevron have not signed on.

“Oil producers often prefer to burn off gas associated with oil extraction activities rather than invest capital in pipes and pumping stations to transport the gas to consumers,” CN Network reports. “The flares from numerous shale oil wells in the U.S. can be seen from space,” and “the World Bank says flaring in northern areas of the globe is also a major source of black carbon or soot, which when deposited on Arctic ice, accelerates melting.”

Satellite data gathered by the World Bank and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reveals Russia as the biggest culprit, with 21 bcm flared each year, followed by Iraq with 16 bcm, Iran and the United States with 12 each, and Venezuela with nine.

Riccardo Puliti, the World Bank’s senior director for energy and extractive industries, said flaring around the world fell 20% between 2005 and 2011, and Nigeria has reduced the activity by 18% since 2013.