Posts Tagged ‘flaring’

According to EIA data for 2001-2021, Gulf of Mexico flaring and venting volumes peaked in 2001 at 21.6 bcf, 2.25 times the volume flared or vented in 2022 (ONRR data for 2022). However, gas production in 2001 was 5.05 tcf, 6.4 times higher than in 2022. The % of the produced gas that was flared or vented in 2001 was thus 0.4%, less than 1/3 the 2022 rate of 1.22%.

Points to consider:

left axis: gas produced in millions of cubic feet; right axis: % flared or vented

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From ONRR OGOR B data:

OWG flared59196987
OWG vented14051638
GWG flared311213
GWG vented548722
total flared and vented81839559
total gas prodution791,983784,238
% flared or vented1.031.22
OWG=oil well gas; GWG=gas well gas; all volumes are in MMCF


  • Of the 784 bcf produced, 9.6 bcf (1.2%) were either vented or flared (vs. 1.03% in 2021). With the exception of 2020 (1.3%), this is the highest % of gas flared/vented from 2015-2022.
  • The % of gas produced that is flared or vented is trending upward (first chart below).
  • Both the gas flaring and venting volumes were higher in 2022 (vs. 2021) despite lower gas production.
  • Assuming oil-well gas (OWG) production of 600 bcf (final 2022 volume not yet available), approximately 1.4% (8.6/600) of the OWG was flared or vented.
  • 2022 OWG flaring volume increased by 18% vs. 2022 despite nearly identical total oil production
  • A very large increase in OWG flaring in December skewed the 2022 data (921 million cu ft vs 522 million in November, see 2nd chart below). OWG vented and gas-well gas (GWG) vented also spiked in December (third chart). Were these spikes associated with production startups, major compressor issues, administrative/accounting corrections, or other issues?
  • Although total venting increased by 407 million cu ft (21%) in 2023 vs. 2022, the overall venting trend is still favorable (last chart).
  • The previously noted inconsistencies in flaring data sets remain a concern.
  • Kudos to ONRR for posting the flaring/venting data.
  • More regulator/industry transparency on flaring episodes is needed, particularly in light of the PNAS paper and the June 2022 Inspector General Report.


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An interesting study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) was brought to my attention by leading offshore energy historian Tyler Priest. The study used airborne observations and emissions reports to measure the carbon intensity (CI) of Gulf of Mexico oil and gas production. Their CI measure is grams of CO2 equivalent of greenhouse gas emissions per megajoule of energy produced.

The authors conclude that inventory emissions of CO2 (as reported to BOEM) “are generally consistent with observations from our aircraft survey, suggesting that combustion is well represented in the federal inventory.

However, that is not the case for methane (CH4) emissions which are underestimated by the Federal inventories. As summarized in the chart below, deepwater facility methane emissions are consistent with the reported inventories, but shelf emissions in State and Federal waters differ significantly.


  • As previously discussed, the lower CI for deepwater production is entirely consistent with expectations. When the most modern 5% (57) of GoM platforms are producing 93% of the oil and 76% of the gas, their CI should be impressive (which indeed it is).
  • As summarized using ONRR data, more gas-well gas was vented from 2015-2021 than was flared, which is not what you want from a GHG standpoint. Gas wells are predominantly at shallow water facilities, many of which are not equipped with flare booms.
  • Oil-well gas, most of which is produced at deepwater platforms, is flared rather than vented by a ratio of approximately 4 to 1.
  • About 15 years ago, the Federal government (MMS) considered requiring that older production platforms be retrofitted with flare booms, but safety, space limitations, and cost considerations precluded such a regulation. Instead, additional flaring/venting limits, and measurement and reporting requirements were imposed.
  • One bad actor may have been a major contributor to the shelf methane emissions observed during the study’s observational flights. That company entered into bankruptcy proceedings. Presumably those issues have been resolved and more rigorous monitoring and enforcement practices have been implemented. I’ll be looking at the 2022 ONRR flaring and venting data for evidence of such improvement. The remainder of the 2022 data should be available in May.
  • The subject study’s only observational measurements were in August 2020. Followup airborne measurements would be helpful.
  • The study only considered production emissions. Shelf facilities are primarily natural gas producers and would thus have a lower relative CI when consumed.
  • When will updated BOEM GOADS flaring and venting data be available? The latest data are for 2017 (cover below)? Are GOADS data being compared with ONRR and World Bank data?

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Only 3 years after first oil, Guyana’s offshore production has soared to nearly 400,000 BOPD, and that rate should triple by 2027. If you want to see the production details, Guyana is doing a good job posting their oil and gas production data.

The startup and compressor issues that contributed to high gas flaring volumes seem to have been resolved, and the recent flaring record is exceptional. Over the month of November 2022, the volume flared averaged less than 0.2% of the gas produced, better than the 1.0-1.5% flaring/venting rate for oil-well gas in US GoM from 2015-2021. Using the World Bank’s flaring intensity metric (m3/bbl), the current flaring intensity for Guyana is a remarkable ~0.07 m3 flared per bbl of oil produced.

The next step is to use the associated offshore gas to power Guyana. The two videos embedded below, while promotional, provide good information on plans to use natural gas for onshore power generation, new industry, and other beneficial purposes. This step will only use 50 million cu ft/day, leas than 1/8 the volume that is currently being reinjected. Increased use of the associated gas resource will be dependent on expanded pipeline and power generation capabilities, and LNG facilities to provide for gas exports.

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Using the World Bank’s worldwide flaring data and ONRR flaring and venting data for the GoM, I compared GoM flaring intensity for 2021 with that of the World Bank’s top ten flaring nations. This is just one example of why US offshore production is a preferred and vital component of our energy mix.

Further discussion: Kudos to the World Bank for their use of satellite data to estimate flaring volumes worldwide. Their primary performance indicator is flaring intensity (volume flared per bbl of oil produced). Absent better worldwide reporting regimes, satellite data are essential. However, there are issues with the World Bank’s system that merit further consideration:

  • Satellites miss some flares and vented gas (a more significant GHG concern) is not detected
  • A prior review of Gulf of Mexico data indicated that the World Bank flaring estimates are low.
  • The flaring intensity indicator penalizes higher gas-oil ratio (GOR) wells. Production upsets of the same duration yield higher flaring intensity scores at higher GOR facilities.
  • Associated gas is an environmentally favorable energy source that should not be discouraged. Most Gulf of Mexico gas production is now from oil wells. Efficient collection and utilization is the key.
  • There will always be some production upsets that result in flaring. The objective should be to minimize the % of oil-well and gas-well gas that is flared, irrespective of the amount of oil production. See the recent GoM summary data posted here and here.

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Further, per the ONRR data:

Oil-Well Gas
Gas-Well Gas
total gas
total gas flared
or vented
% flared
or vented

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Gulf of Mexico flaring and venting data have been sorted for the years 2015-2021. The reporting of these data is mandatory and strictly enforced, so these ONRR numbers should be accurate.

Biggest surprise: The biggest surprise is that there were no big surprises in the data. The % of gas flared and vented were generally consistent with expectations based on familiarity with historical data.

Biggest disappointment: the continued sharp decline in nonassociated (gas-well) gas production. GoM gas well gas production exceeded 4 tcf annually in the 1990s and was still above one tcf ten years ago. Since then, GWG production has declined by 80%. Nonassociated offshore natural gas has important environmental advantages, so the decline in production should be a major concern to policy makers

Encouraging sign: The % of oil-well gas vented has ticked down over the past 2 years which is encouraging from a GHG standpoint. This is presumably because most associated gas is produced on modern deepwater facilities equipped with flare booms. An astute politician would be rushing to take credit for this achievement.😀

Unfavorable ratio: Although the volumes are low (<1 Bcf combined in 2021), more gas-well gas was vented each year than flared. This is presumably because older shelf facilities without flare booms still produce much of the natural gas.


  • ONRR: Office of Natural Resources Revenue
  • GoM: Federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico
  • OWGP: oil-well gas production
  • GWGP: gas-well gas production
  • OWGF: oil-well gas flared
  • OWGV: oil-well gas vented
  • GWGF: gas-well gas flared
  • GWGV: gas-well gas vented

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ONRR mandatory production reporting data are being sorted to assess GoM flaring and venting trends. This will help resolve inconsistencies previously identified. In the meantime, the table below summarizes the 2021 data. 1.03% of the gas produced that year was flared or vented. 0.25% of the gas production was vented.

Interestingly, more gas-well gas was vented than flared. This is presumably because older shelf facilities without flare booms still produce 25% of the gas (versus only 7% of the oil), mostly from gas wells. More to follow.

flared (%)vented (%)flared &
vented (%)
OWG582,2045919 (1.01)1405 (0.24)7324 (1.26)
GWG209,779311 (0.15)548 (0.26)859 (0.41)
total 791,9836230 (0.79)1953 (0.25)8183 (1.03)
OWG=oil well gas; GWG=gas well gas; all volumes are in MMCF

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Kudos to ONRR for posting complete flaring and venting data for all oil and gas operations on US Federal and Indian lands. These data, which distinguish between oil-well gas and gas-well gas, are included in the large “Production Disposition by Month” file that can be downloaded here.

The data should give us a good read on flaring and venting trends and help resolve the inconsistencies previously identified.

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Final text

  • The flaring provision complicates compliance and may increase safety risks: (p. 649) Exception 1 exempts “gas vented or flared for not longer than 48 hours in an emergency situation that poses a danger to human health, safety, or the environment.” This is inconsistent with the carefully constructed BSEE regulations which allow limited (48 hours cumulative) flaring for certain operations (e.g. during the unloading or cleaning of a well, drill-stem testing, production testing, and other well-evaluation testing). Such flaring is essential but not normally “an emergency situation.” The bill could thus compromise safety by unnecessarily restricting or complicating well operations and by limiting flaring in circumstances where such flaring reduces safety risks.
  • Time for BOEM to get to work 😉: (p. 650): Per our previous post, the highlight section of the bill (from an offshore oil and gas standpoint) reinstates Lease Sale 257 (GoM) and requires that the scheduled 2022 lease sales 258 (GoM) and 259 (Cook Inlet) be held by 12/31/2022. Lease Sale 261 (GoM) must be held by 9/30/2023.
  • Petty but perhaps necessary: p. 655: The provision restricting wind leasing when no oil and gas lease sale has been held in the prior year is in the final bill.

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