The amount of natural gas flared by 80 different nations around the world has increased nearly 4% in a single year to some of the highest levels on record, according to new data.
The value of gas lost to flaring has also increased, by 11%, or by 1.6 billion US dollars to 16.4 billion dollars (£13.19 billion), thanks to the dual effects of the rising price of natural gas and the increased volume of gas flared, research by data analytics business Brainnwave has found.
Gas flaring is used at oil refineries and processing plants to manage pressure levels, but campaigners are calling for companies to be more responsible in reducing harmful gases into the atmosphere.
The volume of gas flared rose from 140.5 billion cubic metres in 2017 to 145 billion cubic metres in 2018, up 3.6% – the highest in three years.
According to the World Bank, 300 million tonnes of CO2 a year is emitted into the atmosphere.
Brainnwave pinpointed gas flaring events throughout the world using night-time satellite imagery from visible infrared radiometer data. That data was then used to measure the volume of gas flared.
According to the data, Russia, Iraq, Iran and the US were the four most wasteful nations in 2018, flaring over 70 billion cubic metres of natural gas – enough to heat 38 million homes for a year – more than all the homes in the UK and Ireland combined.
The four countries also flared more gas than the next 30 most wasteful nations combined.
Steve Coates, chief executive of Brainnwave, said: “Gas flaring is a major environmental issue but it is also a commercial one. Oil producers often lack the infrastructure to export natural gas from their wells and face few alternatives but to flare it in order to reach oil.
“There are commercially viable solutions to gas flaring – but they rely on the technology being available and the financial incentives to make sense.”
Governments, oil companies, and development institutions around the world have been encouraged to endorse the World Bank’s “Zero Routine Flaring by 2030” initiative.