How big is the flaring, venting and leaking gas opportunity?

As the world struggles with an energy security crisis, a cost of living crisis and a climate crisis, it’s worth thinking about the 266 BCM of gas that is flared, vented and leaked from the oil and gas supply chain.  At today’s European prices, that is around $515 billion of lost revenue – plus it represents over 6.6 billion CO2-equivalent tonnes.

Here’s what the numbers look like graphically – the total line has the numbers above, and flaring alone is 165 BCM, $313 billion and 974 million CO2-equivalent tonnes.

Just after the chart which shows volume of gas, their revenue potential and the emissions (otherwise known as “gas”, “cash” and “ash”), we show where these numbers come from and what they mean in human-friendly terms.

Where do these numbers come from?

  • Flaring data is from the World Bank – an annual report on gas flaring. We have added in two other assumptions. Firstly, we assume that not all flares have high combustion efficiency – we use the IEA’s assumption of 8% methane slip (92% combustion efficiency).
  • Venting and leaking data is from the IEA methane tracker which has country-by-country breakdowns
  • In converting methane figures to CO2-equivalent volumes, we use the IPCC’s factor of 82.5 – which is the relative potency of CH4 vs CO2 (on a mass basis) over a 20-year time period.

What does this mean?

To put these figures in other words, 266 BCM is equivalent to the following. The smaller number is the figure if you consider that methane should be compared to CO2 over a 100 year period, not the 20 year period we assume.

  • 570 million to 1500 million passenger vehicles
  • 1.7x the gas supplied to Europe from Russia
  • 175 GW of continuous electricity (at 55% conversion efficiency) or 1500 TWh, which is 6% of global power, which would replace 16% of all power generated by coal
  • $130-340 billion in carbon taxes, at $50 per tonne of CO2