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Calculating GHG Emissions
from Gas Flaring to Maximize Efficiency

Calculating GHG Emissions
from Gas Flaring to Maximize Efficiency

Published on: 26 Jun 2024 6 min read

Gas flaring is a common practice for burning off excess natural gas in the oil and gas and other industrial processes. While it can be a necessary safety measure, it also contributes to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and impacts the bottom line.

Understanding, calculating, and reducing high emissions is becoming crucial for emission-heavy operators. The World Bank, together with governments and giants like BP, Eni, Exxon Mobile and Shell, is pushing to end routine flaring by 2030 through the Global Flaring and Methane Reduction Partnership (GFMR) initiative. On the other hand, require oil and gas companies to approach their GHG emissions with the same level of scrutiny and accountability as financial data.

How big is the problem?

Gas flaring is a highly noticeable contributor to greenhouse gas emissions both visually and environmentally.

Gas flaring releases substantial amounts of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide(CO2), methane, and black carbon. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), around 140 billion cubic meters of natural gas are flared each year. This is the equivalent of 364 million tons of CO2 emissions, assuming a flare combustion efficiency of 98%. In many cases that efficiency is much lower.

Methane emissions from inefficient flare combustion significantly contribute to global warming. Methane is over 80 times more potent than CO2 as a warming gas in a 20-year timeframe. Studies show that gas flaring emissions may contribute about 40% of the annual black carbon deposits in the Arctic, accelerating the melting of snow and ice.

According to Chevron estimates, flaring accounts for 10% of the total emissions in the oil and natural gas industry.

Chart illustrating GHG calculation approaches by emission source.

Source: Chevron direct emissions, Chevron analysis

Maximizing transparency with GHG calculations software

Gas flaring may seem like a small contributor with its 1/10 of the industry’s GHG emissions. However, there is growing pressure on the oil and gas sector to establish more ambitious net zero goals. ESG regulations like CSRD require more precise emissions reporting calculations to maximize transparency and improve business planning.

Data about flaring and combustion efficiencies typically relies on estimated emissions rates. These rates can be accessed in public databases for further analysis and understanding.  Some companies have their own data from flaring and venting collected during measurement projects that need to be monitored.

At Scalefocus, we developed a GHG Emissions calculator to help companies measure and track their Scope 1,2 and 3 emissions, including flaring.

By understanding how to monetize the environmental impact, companies can make informed decisions about investing in flare-reduction technologies and improving operational efficiency.

The GHG calculator allows for fast Ingestion of emission factors – publicly available, custom, or dynamic and complex GHG calculations. It offers the needed baseline of calculations for environmental compliance and the foundation for more complex business planning going forward. For example, where flaring is impacting the bottom line.

The solution is part of our Accelerator Apps library of pre-developed software modules. They accelerate the launch of new software solutions and can be easily customized to meet versatile customer requirements.

The tool is designed to help heavy-emissions enterprises to:

  • Make the most out of their compliance budgets through digitalization
  • Provide business value beyond compliance reporting and set the foundation to plan business performance improvements around reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Based on data, they can comply with regulations, and develop a strategy to reduce emissions and improve financial performance.

Screenshot from the Scalefocus GHG Calculator showing how a sample report looks.

Data traceability

Accurate flare metering is important for measuring carbon dioxide and methane flow to calculate greenhouse gas emissions accurately. However, gathering and monitoring this data can be complex, especially when dealing with diverse sources and formats. This is where the Scalefocus GHG Calculator comes into play.

It provides a comprehensive solution for data traceability. Companies can ingest a wide range of activity data from meters monitoring gas flared, gas composition, and flare efficiency. The GHG Calculator makes it easier to calculate emissions by using accurate data from public sources or engineering calculations. The accurate calculations can help set emission reduction targets and other greenhouse gas reduction initiatives.

Impact on the bottom line

GHG emissions from flaring are not only about the environment. The data can also be utilized to determine the value of a product loss. For instance, companies can lower their carbon footprint by improving flare combustion efficiency. This can lead to cost savings from lower carbon taxes or emissions trading.  

A common use case is determining the cost of a methane leak left unattended. The cost would be based on its certain mass, volume, and duration in time.

Another use case is the ability to monitor regular flaring data during certain operating conditions, such as strong winds. Based on the waste gases produced during that period, operators can make efforts to avoid flaring during such periods.

When designing the GHG calculator, we also considered potential security concerns. Many companies are not comfortable sharing business planning data with SaaS platforms or public cloud providers.

The GHG calculator enables heavy-emissions enterprises to have total control over their data and avoid vendor lock-in. The tool can run on their private cloud and can be upgraded with custom business planning functionalities. The goal is to offer more than just GHG reporting. It aims to turn into a highly customizable business tool in their IT landscape of custom solutions.   

Meeting Regulations

Accurately monitoring GHG emissions using science-based methods is important to comply with current regulations on flaring and Net Zero Goals. The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), for example, requires companies to prove their GHG emission metrics and results scientifically.

Methane slip, the incomplete combustion of methane in the flare, is a key contributor to GHG emissions from flaring. The amount of methane slip varies based on flare gas composition, flare system design, and environmental factors like wind speed. Accurately quantifying methane slip is critical for estimating total GHG emissions from flaring.

The Scalefocus GHG Calculator applies a standardized methodology to ensure consistency in reporting. This allows companies to effectively benchmark their performance against industry peers.

The GHG Calculator can convert results into different units of measurement, such as CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide (N2O) equivalents. This flexibility is important for meeting diverse regulatory requirements and providing a comprehensive view of the company’s emissions profile. Companies can also import metrics from their own laboratory data. This ensures that all data used in calculations is scientifically validated and reliable.

The GHG Calculator also allows emission factor export, making it easier for companies to comply with audit requirements. For example, during a CSRD compliance audit, auditors can follow the data trail and ensure it is scientifically proven. While reviewing the exported data, they can also understand the logic behind the distribution of factors and activities.

Screenshot from the Scalefocus GHG Calculator showing how to set and monitor CO2 emission targets.

Conclusion

Companies can use the GHG Calculator data to make informed decisions. This can help them reduce methane emissions, save money on flaring and steam costs, and improve operational efficiency.

Enterprises can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability by accurately reporting their GHG emissions from flaring. This can help them reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to the global fight against climate change.

Contact us to discuss your flaring operations and active data flows. Our team can quickly demonstrate how the GHG Calculator simplifies reporting greenhouse gas emissions for your business. The tool also opens different avenues for possible business planning upgrades that can directly impact the bottom line.

About the Author:

Dimitar Grancharov

Dimitar Grancharov

Content Team Manager

Mitko has a background in journalism and advertising – challenging fields that turned him into what some would call a copywriting go-getter. He is interested in topics such as Energy and Renewables, Big Data & Analytics, everything AI, and how people-first content can reach its designated audience through SEO. In his spare time, he enjoys camping, skiing, and listening to quality Spotify lists.

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