Focus on climate change: Oil producers told to curb natural gas flaring from fields

India burns about 850 million standard cubic metres of natural gas annually, about 2.6% of the total gas it produces.

“We are wasting so much gas and contributing to pollution and climate change by flaring. We must absolutely reduce it,” an official with direct knowledge of the matter said.

In many cases, producers don’t have pipeline facilities or compressors or access to buyers. The DGH is believed to have conveyed to producers that they must work out a plan quickly to remove gas from the drilling site for productive use, so that flaring is reduced to the minimum.

To be sure, some bit of it, referred to as technical flaring, is necessary and acts as a safety measure at oil production facilities, safely disposing gas during emergencies, power and equipment failures. Therefore, all oil production sites always have a non-stop open flame at the top of flare stacks.

Oilfields often produce some natural gas in association with crude oil. Since the quantity of gas is relatively small, producers don’t find it economically viable to build a pipeline to the market. This leaves them with the option of using it themselves at the processing site and injecting the balance into the ground or releasing it into the atmosphere, flared or unignited.

Flaring results in huge emissions of carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide. Releasing unburned natural gas, or methane, into the atmosphere is considered worse for the environment as methane has several times more global warming potential than CO2.

For more than a decade, global efforts have been underway to cut flaring and have resulted in significant cuts by key producing countries.

Analysts said tough measures by India on flaring would help serve the green cause. “This will help utilise our resources better and cut emissions,” said Lydia Powell, distinguished fellow & head, Centre for Resources Management at Observer Research Foundation. “Due to its environmental benefits, the project to cut flaring would also be a potential candidate for funding by multilateral organisations and developed countries.”

Producers will have to figure out ways to transport gas to places where it can be used. “The challenge is not insurmountable,” said Powell.

If laying a pipeline requires huge investment and is economically unviable, producers should think of some new ways, such as using cascades to transport gas to neighbouring communities or industry, the official said.

DGH ranks fields based on the amount of gas they flare. Companies, in a recently started practice, have begun submitting data on gas flare as well as many other parameters, which DGH uses to rank fields across the country every month.


Kabir Ismail is a blogger, website developer/administrator and a comrade.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.