Russia, Iraq, Iran, the United States, Algeria, Venezuela and Nigeria remain the top seven gas flaring countries for nine years running, since the first satellite was launched in 2012, stated a recent report by the World Bank's Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership (GGFR).
These seven countries produce 40 percent of the world’s oil each year, but account for roughly two-thirds (65 percent) of global gas flaring, it noted.
This trend is indicative of ongoing, though differing, challenges facing these countries.
For example, the United States has thousands of individual flare sites, difficult to connect to a market, while a few high flaring oil fields in East Siberia in the Russian Federation are extremely remote, lacking the infrastructure to capture and transport the associated gas.
Gas flaring, the burning of natural gas associated with oil extraction, takes place due to a range of issues, from market and economic constraints, to a lack of appropriate regulation and political will.
The practice results in a range of pollutants released into the atmosphere, including carbon dioxide, methane and black carbon (soot).
“The methane emissions from gas flaring contribute significantly to global warming in short to medium term because methane is over 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide on a 20-year basis,” the report said.
The World Bank’s 2020 Global Gas Flaring Tracker, a leading global and independent indicator of gas flaring, found that from 2019 to 2020, oil production declined by eight percent (from 82 million barrels per day (b/d) in 2019 to 76 million b/d in 2020).
It further pointed out that global gas flaring reduced by five percent (from 150 billion cubic meters (bcm) in 2019 to 142 bcm in 2020).
Nonetheless, the world still flared enough gas to power sub-Saharan Africa.
According to the report, the United States accounted for 70 percent of the global decline, with gas flaring falling by 32 percent from 2019 to 2020, due to an eight percent drop in oil production, combined with new infrastructure to use gas that would otherwise be flared.