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Energies 2009, 2(3), 595-622; doi:10.3390/en20300595

A Fifteen Year Record of Global Natural Gas Flaring Derived from Satellite Data

1
Earth Observation Group, Solar and Terrestrial Division, NOAA National Geophysical Data Center, 325 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80305, USA
2
Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80303, USA
3
Department of Geography, University of Denver, Denver, CO, USA
4
The Aerospace Corporation, El Segundo, CA, USA
5
Space Research Institute, Russian Academy of Science, Moscow, Russia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 3 July 2009 / Revised: 30 July 2009 / Accepted: 5 August 2009 / Published: 7 August 2009

Abstract

We have produced annual estimates of national and global gas flaring and gas flaring efficiency from 1994 through 2008 using low light imaging data acquired by the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP). Gas flaring is a widely used practice for the disposal of associated gas in oil production and processing facilities where there is insufficient infrastructure for utilization of the gas (primarily methane). Improved utilization of the gas is key to reducing global carbon emissions to the atmosphere. The DMSP estimates of flared gas volume are based on a calibration developed with a pooled set of reported national gas flaring volumes and data from individual flares. Flaring efficiency was calculated as the volume of flared gas per barrel of crude oil produced. Global gas flaring has remained largely stable over the past fifteen years, in the range of 140 to 170 billion cubic meters (BCM). Global flaring efficiency was in the seven to eight cubic meters per barrel from 1994 to 2005 and declined to 5.6 m3 per barrel by 2008. The 2008 gas flaring estimate of 139 BCM represents 21% of the natural gas consumption of the USA with a potential retail market value of $68 billion. The 2008 flaring added more than 278 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) into the atmosphere. The DMSP estimated gas flaring volumes indicate that global gas flaring has declined by 19% since 2005, led by gas flaring reductions in Russia and Nigeria, the two countries with the highest gas flaring levels. The flaring efficiency of both Russia and Nigeria improved from 2005 to 2008, suggesting that the reductions in gas flaring are likely the result of either improved utilization of the gas, reinjection, or direct venting of gas into the atmosphere, although the effect of uncertainties in the satellite data cannot be ruled out. It is anticipated that the capability to estimate gas flaring volumes based on satellite data will spur improved utilization of gas that was simply burnt as waste in previous years.
Keywords: gas flaring; carbon emissions; nighttime lights gas flaring; carbon emissions; nighttime lights
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Elvidge, C.D.; Ziskin, D.; Baugh, K.E.; Tuttle, B.T.; Ghosh, T.; Pack, D.W.; Erwin, E.H.; Zhizhin, M. A Fifteen Year Record of Global Natural Gas Flaring Derived from Satellite Data. Energies 2009, 2, 595-622.

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