Every yr, simply 18 oil and gasoline platforms within the North Sea, licensed by the UK authorities, are shedding sufficient gasoline to energy 140,000 properties.
That is the equal of a metropolis the scale of Aberdeen.
This is the conclusion of latest evaluation of a follow producing air pollution in our personal yard – that means the way it may very well be fastened – which has been shared solely with Sky News.
“It’s a huge waste of gas, basically,” stated Liam Hardy from assume tank Green Alliance, which carried out the analysis.
“Especially in the middle of a cost of living crisis, it’s particularly upsetting and disappointing that we’re wasting that gas, and we’re polluting the atmosphere at the same time.”
Green Alliance says this “waste” will be stopped by 2025 by bringing ahead a ban on practices generally known as venting and flaring.
The authorities says that is not potential. The trade says it already has a plan.
What is venting and flaring, and why is it unhealthy?
Venting and flaring occurs when oil or gasoline discipline operators have further gasoline they should eliminate.
For instance, when gasoline comes up with oil in a platform solely designed to seize the oil, or if the gasoline is just too soiled.
The operator both releases the gasoline as methane straight into the environment, generally known as venting, or burns it, which known as flaring.
Flaring releases substantial volumes of potent greenhouse gases, together with black soot and nitrous oxide.
Venting is even worse for the surroundings as a result of it releases extra methane, a gasoline that warms the environment no less than 30 occasions greater than carbon dioxide.
It is occurring all all over the world.
That’s why methane is without doubt one of the key points on the negotiating desk on the COP28 local weather talks, kicking off in Dubai subsequent week.
Lots of this methane is similar as that burning in our boilers, and so needs to be captured and used to warmth properties, Green Alliance stated.
The International Energy Agency calls it an “extraordinary waste of money” as a result of firms may promote the gasoline.
How unhealthy is venting and flaring in UK territory?
There are at the moment 284 UK-licenced offshore fields in manufacturing within the North Sea, in line with the regulator, the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA).
The assume tank has recognized the 40 worst offending for venting and flaring.
Green Alliance estimates that venting alone accounts for round 2.5% of UK methane emissions.
What will be performed?
The authorities is banning venting and flaring from 2030 – there shall be exceptions for emergencies.
Green Alliance says that may be introduced ahead to 2025, as did the net-zero evaluation earlier this yr, and the federal government’s local weather advisers, the CCC.
Doing so would imply these websites which can be producing “negligible” oil or gasoline however releasing a whole lot of methane, and are resulting from shut quickly anyway (14 websites proven in purple within the map above) would shut in 2025 as a substitute.
The gasoline misplaced from these websites could be offset by that captured from simply 18 of the highest 40 websites (in orange) that may seemingly be producing for a while, so ought to have the know-how added to seize the gasoline sooner, Green Alliance says.
This is what would forestall 5.2 billion cubic toes of gasoline being launched into the air yearly – and provide 140,000 properties with power. These figures may rise if utilized to all websites, not simply these within the high 40.
“We can actually grow the UK’s domestic production of gas by ending routine venting and flaring,” Green Alliance stated.
Other websites, similar to these which can be producing a whole lot of oil and gasoline nonetheless however are resulting from shut quickly (proven in yellow), may qualify for an exemption.
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Is a 2025 ban practical?
Grant Allen, professor of atmospheric physics at Manchester University, stated: “Reducing emissions from flaring and venting is one of the potential climate quick wins.
“With good monitoring, industrial follow, and solely small adjustments in industrial know-how, it’s potential to tremendously scale back pointless emissions from flaring and venting.”
The International Energy Agency has said various technology exists to capture and potentially sell the gas instead.
In some cases it will cost, requiring extra support or legislation from governments, in others it can make money.
Professor Stuart Haszeldine from Edinburgh University said the government may have to tweak some financial levers to make the changes more economical for operators.
But “[retrofitting] these installations could be troublesome throughout the timeframe that we’re “, said Mark Wilson from industry body Offshore Energies UK. It could also mean having to turn sites off.
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Mr Wilson said every site already had a “sturdy” plan to reduce all emissions, and had already cut methane emissions by 45% and flaring by 11%.
“We’ve already made large strides to cut back emissions… We’ve performed that as a result of we’re doing it in a programmed, well-thought-out manner,” he added.
A Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesperson stated the UK adopted “early and ambitious measures to tackle methane emissions”, resulting in important falls already.
“We do recognise the urgency to go further, which is why we are committed to banning routine venting and flaring by 2030.”
They stated accelerating the targets would “lead to an early end of production” from some websites and additional reliance on imported gasoline with larger emissions.
Green Alliance stated the misplaced gasoline could be greater than compensated for by that captured from the websites which have know-how fitted early.
The UK is off observe on a worldwide purpose on methane that the nation itself engineered.
At the COP26 local weather convention in Glasgow in 2021, the UK authorities introduced the Global Methane Pledge, beneath which round 100 nations agreed to slash harmful methane emissions by 30% by 2030.
Green Alliance evaluation suggests the UK is on the right track for 19%.
Norway and Denmark have banned routine flaring.
Last week, the European Union dedicated to a ban from 2027 and a potential penalty on imports.
Lisa Fischer from inexperienced power assume tank E3G stated the UK is “lagging behind”.