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Turning Waste into Opportunity: A Promising Solution to Reduce Gas Loss in the North Sea

A groundbreaking analysis reveals that 18 oil and gas platforms operating in the North Sea, under the purview of the UK government, are currently losing enough gas to power 140,000 homes. This staggering revelation calls for urgent action to address the issue and explore viable solutions. Think tank Green Alliance has conducted extensive research, shedding light on this wasteful practice occurring right in our own backyard. By exclusively sharing their findings with Sky News, they hope to inspire change that could make a significant impact.

According to Liam Hardy, an expert from Green Alliance, the gas losses are nothing short of a colossal waste. Particularly in the midst of a cost of living crisis, such squandering is disheartening and detrimental to the environment. Green Alliance proposes that by 2025, such wastage can be eliminated by accelerating the ban on venting and flaring practices, which are major contributors to the problem.

Venting and flaring occur when oil or gas field operators are faced with surplus gas that must be discarded. This may happen when gas is co-produced alongside oil in a platform designed primarily for oil extraction or when the gas is deemed too impure. The unwanted gas is then either released directly into the atmosphere as methane, a process known as venting, or is burned, referred to as flaring. Both practices have severe environmental consequences, with flaring emitting greenhouse gases and venting releasing even more methane, a highly potent contributor to global warming.

Preventing this wastefulness is crucial not only from an environmental standpoint but also as an economic opportunity. The International Energy Agency describes it as an “extraordinary waste of money,” as companies could instead sell the captured gas. Green Alliance suggests that a significant portion of this lost methane could be harnessed for heating homes, providing a more sustainable and efficient energy source.

Currently, there are 284 offshore fields in production within UK territory in the North Sea, with an estimated 2.5% of the country’s methane emissions stemming from venting alone. Green Alliance has identified the 40 worst offending sites for venting and flaring, calling for a proactive stance from both the government and industry to tackle this issue swiftly.

While the UK government has committed to banning venting and flaring from 2030, with exceptions for emergencies, Green Alliance advocates for bringing this deadline forward to 2025. This aligns with the recommendations of the net-zero review earlier this year and the advice of the government’s climate advisers, the CCC. By accelerating the shutdown of sites that contribute negligibly to oil and gas but significantly to methane emissions, and by implementing gas capture technology sooner in the sites that will remain productive, a significant reduction in gas loss can be achieved.

The proposed solution not only addresses the pressing environmental concerns associated with venting and flaring but also underscores the economic potential of capturing and utilizing the lost gas. By implementing these measures, we have the opportunity to turn waste into opportunity, safeguard the environment, and pave the path towards a more sustainable energy future.


What is venting and flaring?

Venting and flaring refers to the release of surplus gas in the oil and gas industry. Venting involves directly releasing the gas, typically methane, into the atmosphere, while flaring entails burning the gas off.

Why are venting and flaring bad?

Venting and flaring contribute to environmental degradation by emitting potent greenhouse gases. While flaring releases greenhouse gases and black soot, venting releases even more methane, a gas that has a significant warming effect on the atmosphere.

What can be done to address venting and flaring?

To reduce venting and flaring, initiatives such as accelerating the ban on these practices, implementing gas capture technology, and utilizing captured gas for heating and energy purposes can be employed. These measures not only curb environmental harm but also present economic opportunities.

What impact does venting and flaring have in the UK?

In the UK, venting alone accounts for approximately 2.5% of methane emissions. Through proactive measures and targeted actions, such as the early closure of low-producing sites and the implementation of gas capture technology, the impact of venting and flaring can be significantly reduced.

By Howard Rhodes

Howard Rhodes is a prominent figure in the field of sustainable urban planning, with a special focus on renewable energy integration in American cities. His writings and research are centered on the transformative impact of green energy solutions like solar, wind, and hydroelectric power in urban environments. Rhodes advocates for the adoption of these sustainable practices to address the pressing challenges of climate change and energy security. His influential work provides insightful analysis on the economic, environmental, and social benefits of transitioning to renewable energy sources in cityscapes, making him a key voice in the movement towards more sustainable urban futures.