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Seb Kennedy's picture
Founding Editor, Energy Flux newsletter

I am professional energy journalist, writer and editor who has been chronicling the renewables and fossil fuel energy sectors since 2008.  I am passionate about the energy transition, so much so...

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  • Aug 5, 2021

The liquefied natural gas industry says it is helping to reduce emissions by replacing dirty coal with cleaner-burning gas in Asia and other markets. LNG is credited with providing a route to market for stranded gas that might otherwise be flared or vented. But the opposite is often true, according to flare capture specialist Capterio, which warns that the industry’s rush to offset its carbon emissions without first snuffing out the flaring problem is raising legitimate concerns of ‘greenwashing’.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 5, 2021

The world’s single worst LNG facility for gas flaring is its oldest: Arzew LNG, operated by Algeria’s national oil company Sonatrach. Arzew began operations in 1964 as the world’s first commercial scale LNG facility, and underwent major expansions in 1978, 1981 and 2014.

No surprise that the oldest facility is the biggest perpetrator here, since the tech wasn't advanced and the oversight perhaps lacking. Also underscores, though, a forward-looking vision of gas infrastructure: any facilities being built today will use today's better tech, but it will also lock in that 2021 tech for decades to come. Retrofits and upgrades happen, sure, but it more or less is locking a part of the economy into this carbon intensive operation. 

Seb Kennedy's picture
Seb Kennedy on Aug 6, 2021

Most of the flaring is entirely avoidable and requires only process adjustments and maybe some minor equipment upgrades. The real problem is the willingness of the gas/LNG industry as a whole to engage constructively with the problem. Solutions exist that would pay for themselves quickly since they are burning off their own product. Flaring & venting should not be routine practices in 2021 but sadly they are, particularly flaring.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 5, 2021

Seb, by eliminating flaring we only increase venting. From a climate change perspective, the solution is worse than the problem - and though venting methane en masse is detectable, the ways to circumvent detection are unlimited.

Unmentioned is "fugitive" methane - leaks during extraction or in transit. It's estimated to be up to 3% of all methane captured from a well for consumption. 

Multiply by any of the multiple factors you can find online for its heat-retention compared to CO2, and you'll quickly realize emissions from natural gas, overall, are worse than those of coal - whether intentionally-released methane is flared or not.

Bottom line: there is no energy pathway, no sequestration or "bridge" scenario, no workaround, that permits both continued extraction of fossil fuels and a sustainable future. The sooner we focus on eliminating fossil fuel extraction, the sooner we can start making progress in limiting climate change.

Leave. It. In. The. Ground.

Seb Kennedy's picture
Seb Kennedy on Aug 6, 2021

Bob, you’re right that venting is far worse. This is mentioned in the piece. An Italian regas terminal was caught by satellites venting in an attempt to avoid detection of flaring.

This article is specifically about avoidable flaring by the LNG industry - a sub-sector of the natural gas industry. I’ve been covering the issues of venting and flaring for several years now and my impression is that there is an assumption that flaring is only an upstream problem, that once gas is liquefied and shipped around the world there is no flaring to report because that gas has ‘value’. But as the article explains there is flaring and even venting in the downstream LNG chain too. 

Addressing these represents very low-hanging fruit on the emissions reductions tree that are cost-negative (ie pays for itself). Until we get to a point where leaving it all in the ground is a realistic option, the industry that produces it should ensure it operates with a zero flaring, zero venting, zero waste mindset. We are still a long way from that point.

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Aug 6, 2021

Bob and i agree again.


The sooner we focus on eliminating fossil fuel extraction, the sooner we can start making progress in limiting climate change.

Leave. It. In. The. Ground.

Seb Kennedy's picture
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