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Significant UK gas reserves used through flaring and venting

Published by , Deputy Editor
Oilfield Technology,

The UK has wasted about 13 billion cubic metres (bcm) of indigenous gas reserves through flaring and venting over the past 10 years, exposing oil and gas operators to £2.6 billion in lost gas sales and £1 billion in Emissions Trading System (ETS) payments.

In the current gas price crisis, the practice is accentuating gas shortages, increasing costs for consumers, and polluting the atmosphere. Routine flaring and venting in the UK resulted in 45 million t of CO2 emissions over the same period – more than Scotland’s entire emissions in 2021.

In 2021, the country wasted roughly 3% of gas production, or about 1 bcm of gas, through flaring and venting, equivalent to over £580 million from lost gas sales and ETS payments.

“The amount of gas wasted through flaring and venting in the UK is significant relative to production levels and is a major waste of resources,” said Andrew Reid, an IEEFA guest contributor and partner at North Stone Advisers.

“Introducing clear economic disincentives would support the smart use of the UK’s declining reserves and protect UK companies from wasting billions on lost gas sales.”

Despite the North Sea Transition Authority’s (NSTA) target of zero routine flaring and venting by 2030, reductions in flaring and venting in recent years may correlate more with declining oil production output in the UK Continental Shelf than efforts by the regulator to curb the practice.

Experience from neighbouring Norway shows economic disincentives can lead to significantly lower volumes of wasted gas. In 2021, the UK produced around half the oil of Norway’s 1.8 million boe/d, yet flared more than five times the amount of natural gas. About 60% of the flaring was routine and could be stopped.

Flaring accounts for 25% of total greenhouse gas emissions from offshore operations in the UK. In Norway, it accounts for only 5%, despite the Nordic country’s higher production.

“The amount of gas flared and vented from UK offshore fields in 2021 could have supplied more than half a million UK households for an entire year,” said Arjun Flora, IEEFA director for Europe. “Failing to tackle this level of wastage undermines ongoing public spending efforts to relieve the cost-of-living crisis. The UK is decades behind neighbouring Norway in implementing rules and regulations to end this practice.”

“It is yet another example where energy measures that should be deployed urgently are still being ignored.”

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