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Gas flaring targets agreed at London conference

25 October 2012

Delegates at the World Bank-led Global Gas Flaring Reduction partnership conference in London on October 24 agreed an ambitious target of cutting gas flaring by 30% over five years. Flaring mostly happens in remote areas where gas at the surface as an oil by-product cannot be brought to consumers.

The World Bank says $50bn (£31bn) in fuel goes up in polluting smoke every year, and that the target represents the equivalent of taking 52 million cars off the road.

The conference was attended both by representatives of governments and major oil firms.

The World Bank says there have already been substantial improvements, with a 40% cut in flaring volume in Russia, and a 29% reduction in Nigeria.

But it says flaring still wastes 140 billion cubic metres of gas a year - equivalent to a third of the annual gas consumption in the European Union. The practice emits around 400 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

The partnership has been working to get the gas sold to market, re-injected into the ground or used to make energy at the oil rig itself, with some difficulty given the low economic incentives for oil producers to participate.

It said there needs to be substantial progress in Iraq, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Nigeria and some Russian autonomous regions. Qatar, host of the forthcoming world climate talks in December, is making steps to improve.

The targets set at Wednesday's conference were widely agreed to be broadly ambitious, but another issue will be persuading some oil-producing nations such as Indonesia and Brazil to join the scheme.

"I think as they are now moving into a phase where their legislation, their companies and their challenges are lining up, they will also be more ready to join the rest of us on this issue," said Hela Norheim of the Norwegian state oil producer Statoil.

Kevin Bortz, director for natural resources at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development admitted that some firms considered it impossible economically to justify collecting the gas from some small remote fields.

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