Example Problem - Flaring:
100 million tons (145 billion cubic meters) of associated gas was flared throughout the world, representing about 3-4% of all gas produced from both oil and gas wells. The waste yielded nearly 350 million tons of CO2 equivalent emissions of greenhouse gases, or about 1% of the 33 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) released from all burning of all fossil fuels. The buildup of these gases is substantially disrupting the planetary carbon cycle, and broader international efforts are ongoing to assess the extent of the damage and quantify the accumulating economic costs.
The costs to eliminate flaring are better understood and vary widely between instances. The World Bank estimates the total mitigation cost at US$100 billion. If brought to the natural gas market in a developed economy such as that in the United States, the flared gas could supply about 17% of the 30 trillion cubic feet of U.S. consumption, and potentially be valued at nearly US$20 billion. In less developed nations, the benefits could have further impact. For example, it could supply all current usage throughout South and Central America. If used to generate 750 billion kWh of electricity, it could supply the entire needs of the African continent.
While flaring is wasteful and produces harmful byproducts like other burning of fossil fuels, it is less disruptive in the near term than venting the associated gas which consists primarily of methane. The buildup of atmospheric methane is responsible for about 25% of the changes in climate forcing, despite its nearly 100x lower abundance compared to CO2. According to the International Energy Agency, at least 75 million tons of methane was released by the oil and gas industry through venting and fugitive emissions, and an estimated 4 million tons was released through flaring inefficiencies. The use of fossil fuels by humans is responsible for about 20% of all methane emissions, and those from the oil and gas industry are responsible for about 25% of all anthropogenic sources. These sources are also in need of more extensive tracking and mitigation efforts since natural gas is projected to continue to be the most rapidly growing supply of global primary energy.