Gas flaring is the intentional burning of natural gas that is produced as a byproduct of oil production. The harmful emissions associated with gas flaring around the world are staggering - an estimated 145 bcm of gas is flared each year. The Capstone team conducted a comprehensive research analysis of the regulatory, economic, and technological factors involved in natural gas flaring. The team found that gas flaring is inefficiently and/or ineffectively regulated, leading to significant under reporting and inaccurate monitoring. New data streams, such as satellite observations, provide a more comprehensive overview of the problem, but many gaps in knowledge remain.
The team recommended a combination of technology and policy solutions, with measurement and reporting accuracy as a high priority. Gas is a valuable commodity that can be used at or near its source to power oilfield equipment or computing centers. Flaring can be made more efficient to reduce methane emissions, which are even more harmful than flaring. Government regulations should combine the best practices that have been devised by individual states. Operating companies can be incentivized to be more efficient through the use of environment, social, and governance (ESG) ratings, on which the financial community is increasingly relying to grade its investments. Nonprofits and independent researchers should continue working to bridge the gap between satellite and reported data, working with both industry and governments to understand the full extent of the problem.