I’ve often seen imagery of oil wells spouting flame and wondered how much natural gas is being wasted in the process.
It seems it’s a lot.. and that’s an understatement.
A recent report from GE states an estimated 5 percent of the world’s natural gas production is flared annually; an amount equivalent to a whopping 23 percent of the United States’ consumption.
Aside from the waste from this gas not being put to work, the flaring emits 400 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, the equivalent to the tailpipe emissions of 77 million automobiles.
This is incredible – surely this could be a low hanging fruit of achieving better energy efficiency?
It seems Russia is the biggest flaring culprit and if just half of that nation’s wasted gas was captured and sold at Russian market prices, it could exceed $2 billion U.S. dollars a year.
While on the topic of natural gas, a new study has found shale gas recovered through hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking, will create more greenhouse gas emissions than the burning of coal in the next couple of decades.
The more I read about fracking, the more concerned I become about it. Greenhouse gas emissions aside, there’s been a number of cases of fracking operations contaminating water supplies along with other environmental degradation through the practice. I’m also increasingly seeing stories pop up about landholder rights being trodden on to get to at the fossil fuel.
So, on the one hand we’re wasting billions of dollars worth of natural gas a year through flaring and on the other we’re increasingly using environmentally destructive methods to extract gas that we do use. It all seems a little insane.
Future generations are going to read about this sort of thing and shake their heads. I don’t think history will treat us too kindly.
How green is natural gas?