North Sea oil and gas operators halve flaring in four years
The reduction in flared volumes last year alone was the equivalent of enough gas to cover the demand of 80,000 UK homes.By Joseph Murphy
The UK North Sea oil and gas industry managed to halve flaring between 2018 and 2022, upstream regulator NSTA reported on March 9, citing new analysis.
Reductions were achieved each consecutive period, according to NSTA, with flared volumes dropping by 13% in 2022, to 22bn ft3. NSTA estimated that the extra gas that was not flared last year alone was the equivalent to the demand of 80,000 UK homes.
Flaring is responsible for around a fifth of North Sea upstream emissions, making it a key focus in industry efforts to halve overall production emissions by 2030, in line with the North Sea Transition Deal that was reached with the government.
NSTA began tracking flaring performance in 2020 and the following year, it issued tougher guidance, stating that all new developments should have no routine flaring or venting by 2030, whether at new or existing platforms. It has also ordered operators to temporarily restrict output to stay within the agreed flaring and venting limits and has punished violations with fines, which £215,000 ($256,000) in total issued in late 2022.
“It is hugely encouraging to see North Sea flaring cut in half in just four years, something the NSTA has made a priority, and which supports both the UK’s energy security and net zero ambition. Industry also deserves credit for making this progress,” NSTA director of strategy, Hedvig Lungerud, commented. “The NSTA expects reductions to continue and remains firmly focused on both supporting and challenging the industry on emissions, including from flaring and venting.”
NSTA noted that vented volumes of methane increased by 5% last year to 2.9bn ft3. But venting was at low levels in mid-2021 as a result of prolonged maintenance downtime across multiple platforms. Venting represents around 0.15% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions and under 5% of North Sea production emissions.