According to satellite data estimates, 350 million tons of natural gas were wastefully burned at the wellhead in 2012, about 3.5% of worldwide natural gas production. To put this into perspective, this amount of natural gas could provide electrical power to the entire continent of Africa. The CO2 emissions from natural gas flares are roughly equivalent to 10% of all CO2 emissions of the European Union.
The problem, as you might surmise, is the handling and transportation of the natural gas produced as a by-product of oil wells in areas without the infrastructure to handle gas. In addition, some gas produced as oil by-product has relatively low levels of methane. Russia flares more natural gas than any other nation, followed by Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, Venezuela, Algeria, and the United States.
The World Bank is trying to stop all routine flaring of natural gas by 2030. North Dakota and New Mexico are taking steps to reduce gas flares.
(Score: 2) by sjames on Tuesday January 12 2016, @11:48PM
When I change the oil in my car, the most economical solution (for me) is to dump the waste oil into the nearby lake. That doesn't make it acceptable to not drop it off for recycling/safe disposal.
(Score: 3, Interesting) by VLM on Wednesday January 13 2016, @12:14PM
Bad analogy because the systemic cost including cleaning up the lake and loss of tourism/recreation makes it staggeringly cheaper to recycle the oil. Whereas there's no systemic way to capture that gas without spending possibly crazy amounts of money, so you get to shut down wells and increase the price consumers pay. Or you encourage falsification of data, etc. Remember a flare is easily detectable but environmentally good, compared to just venting and hoping no one notices other than methane being 25x or wtf worse than co2 WRT greenhouse gas.
Also you're discussing a non-energy product. The problem with gas capture is its an energy product and you rapidly end up in the "2 gallon gas tank but the nearest station is 3 gallons away" class of problem. If you really want to capture to catch 1 unit of greenhouse gas over the lifetime of the equipment, at a very small scale, then you'll have to emit 2 to 100 units of greenhouse gas to make all the steel pipes and whatnot to do it, for a total systemic cost to the environment of say 20 units whereas just flaring would only be 1 unit...
(Score: 2) by sjames on Wednesday January 13 2016, @04:37PM
I acknowledge that there will be cases where the economics are overwhelmingly against anything but flaring, but those cases are a subset of the cases where they flare now.
If you can flare it, you can run a modified generator on it, for example. If doing that would only break even over a long time, they probably aren't doing it now, but probably should be from the standpoint of pollution.