Arctic Council: VYGON`s experts in cooperation with Carbon Limits show the interim results of study on associated petroleum gas flaring in the Russian Arctic

Jun 24, 2020

The Arctic Council’s Arctic Contaminant Action Program (ACAP) has completed a study on flaring of associated petroleum gas in the Russian Arctic. The report shows that significant economic and environmental gains can be achieved if Best Available Technology (BAT) and Best Environmental Practices (BEP) are applied. Application of BAT and BEP may decrease the volume of short-lived climate pollutant (SLCP) emissions from the current 25 to 7 million tons of carbon dioxide-equivalents by 2025 in the Russian Arctic region.

Industrial processes such as oil production generate gas as a byproduct (also called Associated Petroleum Gas; APG), with the potent climate gas methane as a major component. A common way of eliminating this is by flaring, where the unwanted gas is burned off, even if solutions exist to avoid this. This practice, however, is controversial as it has shown to be a major environmental concern causing emissions of, for example, black carbon.

The Arctic Council’s Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) Working Group has indicated that flaring is one of the most important sources of black carbon emissions from Arctic States and that emissions that are released close to the Arctic have the strongest effect on sea ice melting. A significant share of emissions stem from oil and gas operations in the Arctic.

The knowledge and awareness about the climate risks and abatement opportunities for black carbon emissions are still developing. At the same time, it is recognized that flaring of APG represents a resource waste which often can be rectified without causing net costs.

Closing the knowledge gap and spurring action requires dialogue and cooperation with oil companies. Without this, access to information will be difficult and policies and regulations will typically lack effectiveness.

Project’s history
In response to AMAP’s findings that flaring is a major emission source in the Arctic, the Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP) developed the “Mitigation of Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCP) from Associated Petroleum Gas flaring” project, which received financial support from the Arctic Council Project Support Instrument (PSI). The project aims to address SLCP emissions from APG flaring that impact the Arctic environment, primarily those of black carbon, methane and non-methane volatile organic compounds.

An analysis was carried out by independent consultants VYGON Consulting (Russia) and Carbon Limits (Norway) in close cooperation with the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and Ministry of Energy. The Russian oil companies Gazprom Neft and BerezkaGas also contributed significantly through their extensive experience to the implementation of APG utilization technologies in the Russian Arctic.

The Project has been implemented in two phases so far. As of June 2020, a comprehensive assessment of the environmental impact of APG flaring has been carried out; global BAT and BEP were considered, their applicability and potential effect for the Russian Arctic were evaluated; and a draft report on the use of new method to reduce APG flaring at remote fields was developed.

APG Utilization in the Russian Arctic
The Russian Arctic is a dynamically developing oil producing area with production and emissions growing significantly. Between 2010 and 2019, its oil output increased from 45.4 to 87.7 million tons, while the volume of extracted APG grew from 9.1 to 27.4 billion cubic meters, leading to increased flaring volumes in the same period.

Most of APG production comes from mature oil and gas fields that achieve a production plateau, where the utilization rate of the gas currently stands at about 92 percent. As for new oil and gas field developments, this indicator is traditionally low due to the timing of field development, amounting to 67 percent. APG that is not utilized is flared, which causes significant emissions of black carbon.

The ACAP project assessed potential environmental gains from implementing BAT and BEP for APG utilization, and the estimates show that if the oil and gas industry proceeds with business as usual scenario (see description in Figure 1 below), by 2025 the projected utilization rate will amount to 73.6 percent, while implementation of BAT and BEP will increase the APG utilization rate to 91.6 percent.

The full publication is available at the link