Russia is believed to have emitted large amounts of gas near the border with Finland since July, releasing approximately 9,000 tons of CO2 per day. DW analyzes the potential climate impact.
In its recent analysis of activity at the under-construction Portovaya liquefied natural gas facility, not far from where the Nord Stream 1 pipeline enters the Baltic Sea, Norwegian company Rystad Energy said Russia was releasing gas that would normally have been supplied to Europe. Relations with the West did not deteriorate as a result of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Flaring is generally a common practice near oil fields and processing plants around the world, with companies burning off gas that is generated as a byproduct during various processes involved in oil exploration and extraction.
Companies often turn to roasting when they don’t have the proper infrastructure or financial incentives to bring the gas to market, or when it needs to be released for safety reasons to manage pressure changes during crude oil extraction.
Enormous volumes of gas are currently lost to flaring each year. According to the World Bank, roughly 144 billion cubic meters of gas were flared in thousands of flares at oil production sites worldwide in 2021, enough to power all of sub-Saharan Africa, or nearly two-thirds of the electricity net national of the European Union. generation
How does it affect the environment?
Roasting is considered environmentally preferable to venting gas directly to the atmosphere.
“If you have too much gas in parts of the network, you have to release it and, of course, because of the climate it is better to burn it because you massively reduce the greenhouse effect than if you release natural gas, since it is CH4. [methane],” said Stefan Lechtenböhmer, professor and director of future energy systems and industry at the Wuppertal Institute, a German think tank.
Compared to the CO2 released by the twisting, methane is about 80 times more potent for global warming over a 20-year period.
Despite this, gas toast is still considered economically unproductive and a critical climate problem. “You have the CO2 emissions, but it’s of no use: it doesn’t produce electricity, it doesn’t produce heat, it doesn’t drive industry processes, etc.,” said Lechtenböhmer.
Gas wasted in flaring, venting and methane leaks from oil and gas operations led to around 2.7 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions in 2021. According to the International Energy Agency, preventing this loss would have the same impact on global temperature rise in 2050 as immediately. eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from all cars, trucks and buses in the world.
Potential impact of the Russian gas flaring
Zongqiang Luo, senior gas and LNG analyst at Rystad Energy says the large volume of gas being flared at Russia’s LNG facility makes it a particularly concerning case. “A normal, standard procedure will not release this amount of gas.”
Although the exact volume of gas lost at Portovaya is difficult to calculate precisely, Rystad estimates it to be around 4.34 million cubic meters per day. This equates to 1.6 billion cubic meters per year, around 0.5% of the EU’s annual gas demand.
Rystad Energy has described the situation as an “environmental disaster”, with emissions of around 9,000 tonnes of CO2 per day.
Lechtenböhmer said this daily gas flare is equivalent to approximately 10-12% of the amount of gas currently delivered each day via Nord Stream 1.
“It’s an environmental crime of the highest proportion: it goes on, it goes on for months, and as we’re now learning, it’s very visible,” said R. Andreas Kraemer, founder of the nonprofit Ecological Institute . research organization based in Berlin.
Russian gas giant Gazprom has reduced flows through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to just 20% of capacity since mid-July, blaming technical reasons such as faulty equipment for the outage.
Germany rejects this argument and says the cut in gas supplies was a political move in response to Western sanctions against Moscow over the Ukraine war.
Some argue that after Russia cut off supplies to its European customers, it was unable to divert the gas elsewhere and therefore chose to flare it instead.
Gazprom, which Rystad Energy says is building the gas-flaring plant, did not respond to requests for comment.
Black carbon pollution and the Arctic
Experts like Kraemer have also expressed concern about black carbon pollution, more commonly known as soot, produced during twisting from the incomplete combustion of fuels such as natural gas. Black carbon is a powerful contributor to global warming, converting solar radiation into heat and affecting rainfall patterns.
Kraemer considers the geographical position of the northern Portovaya Bengal to be troubling.
“I think from that place, that [black carbon] it will go very far,” he said, explaining that the heat could make it rise to high altitudes where it can fly significant distances. “They [black carbon particles] it will end up settling on the ground. And if they settle in the snow, they change the absorption of sunlight by the surface of the snow or ice and this can accelerate the melting of the Arctic.
By calculating the estimated flow rate through the flare, it is likely that this single flare is currently producing more black carbon than the entire country of Finland, said Matthew Johnson, professor and head of the Energy and Emissions Laboratory at the University of Carleton in Canada.
Based on Rystad’s analysis, the World Bank said that daily individual twist at the Portovaya LNG facility is equivalent to about 6% of the estimated daily twist for Russia in 2021. Most of the Russian twist is fueled by oil production in a small number. of fields in Eastern Siberia.
By volume, the country emits more gas than any other globally, topping a list that includes Iraq, Iran, the US and Venezuela.
Nico Bauer, a senior scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, said Russia’s performance in reducing gas flaring is insufficient.
“The government of Russia planned to reduce gas twisting from approximately 12% of associated gas to less than 5%, which is the share achieved in countries with advanced gas production industries. However, this has not been achieved.”