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Ten energy companies, nine oil-producing countries and six independent development institutions have jointly committed to ending the practice of gas flaring at oil wells no later than 2030.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, announced the initiative – the Zero Routine Flaring by 2030 initiative – on April 19 during the annual spring meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Washington.
The organizers of the initiative say about 140 billion cubic meters of this gas, a byproduct of oil drilling, is “flared,” or burned off, at thousands of oil rigs worldwide for a wide variety of economic, regulatory or technical reasons, or simply because there doesn’t seem to be enough of the gas to put to profitable use.
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All told, though, gas flaring emits more than 300 million tons of CO2, or the equivalent of adding 77 million automobiles to the Earth’s roads. On the other hand, if this gas could be captured, it could be burned more carefully to provide 750 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, more than enough to meet today’s needs of the entire continent of Africa.
“Gas flaring is a visual reminder that we are wastefully sending CO2 into the atmosphere,” Kim said in announcing the joint effort. “We can do something about this. Together we can take concrete action to end flaring and to use this valuable natural resource to light the darkness for those without electricity.”
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For the past 15 years the World Bank has been a member of the Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership, studying ways to end gas flaring, working with other members and the United Nations to help bring down regulatory and technical barriers against reining in the practice.
The Bank said that the governments and energy companies supporting the movement, which are responsible for more than 40 per cent of global gas flaring, recognize the economic as well as environmental downside of gas flaring and are prepared to find ways to end it by 2030. As an incentive, they’re asked to report their progress annually.
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“As we head towards the adoption of a meaningful new international climate agreement in Paris in December, these countries and companies are demonstrating real climate action,” Ban said. “Reducing gas flaring can make a significant contribution towards mitigating climate change. I appeal to all oil-producing countries and companies to join this important initiative.”
A World Bank statement said the energy companies and governments that haven’t yet endorsed the initiative are reviewing their own gas-flaring practices, and many are expected to join the effort soon.
The World Bank and the UN already have been joined by company’s executives and government ministers including Royal Dutch Shell Chairman Jorma Ollila; Statoil CEO Eldar Saetre; Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende; Gabonese Minister of Petroleum Etienne Dieudonne Ngoubou, along with other senior government and corporate officials, as well as representatives of international development banks.
By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com
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Andy Tully is a veteran news reporter who is now the news editor for Oilprice.com