A recent GE report has claimed that five per cent of the world’s natural gas production is wasted by flaring unused gas each year, which is an amount equivalent to 2.4 million barrels per day of crude oil.
During the 2010 MEGAS Summit, which Climate Control Middle East had the privilege of attending, delegates heard with concern about an estimated 30 bcm of gas being flared a year in the Middle East. This, said the presenter from the Gobal Gas Flaring Reduction (GGFR) initiative, was enough to feed a 20 MT LNG plant or six medium-size LNG trains. While, a lot of ground needs to be covered, countries like Oman and Saudi Arabia have already taken steps to reduce flaring. During the same MEGAS Summit, a representative of the Ministry of Oil and Gas in Oman said that the country had cut down on flares by 88%. And the GE report described how Saudi Arabia’s master gas system mega-project gathers almost 100 bcm a year of the gas and, effectively, prevents its emission into the atmosphere.
All the same, much more needs to be done, so a greater volume of gas is trapped. On one side is the tremendous potential to generate electricity. To put things in perspective, Saudi Arabia uses three million barrels of oil a day out of the reported eight million it generates in a day, for domestic consumption, a majority of which is used to generate electricity. (There are alternative reports that say the country produces in excess of 10 million barrels a day.) In that context, intensifying efforts to trap larger volumes of flare gas will help generate electricity, thereby freeing more crude oil for export. Plus, gas is needed for re-injection for enhanced oil recovery, gathering and processing in crude oil production.
In addition, the benefits from minimising the flaring of gas will mean a reduction in carbon emissions. According to the GE report, gas flaring at current volumes emits 400 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually. This, the report adds, is two per cent of global CO2 emissions from energy sources, without producing useful heat or electricity. In the context of heightening climate change concerns, any reduction in carbon emissions is a welcome development.
District cooling and co-generation systems have demonstrated similar benefits. Indeed, it has been well profiled how district cooling, if approached in the right manner, and cogeneration systems, can shave megawatts off the grid and by trapping waste heat and, as a result of reducing the need for power generation, can contribute to reducing carbon emissions.
It’s a pretty good case for a concerted effort, about how different industries can in their own ways, help in the drive towards energy security and safeguarding the environment.