Gas flaring wastes resources, pollutes atmosphere.

AuthorHerro, Alana

Every year, the oil industry burns off up to 170 billion cubic meters of natural gas released in the oil extraction process, according to a new report from the World Bank. The practice, known as gas flaring, not only harms the environment by emitting some 400 million tons of carbon dioxide globally, but is also wasteful of the gas itself, notes Bent Svensson, manager of the Bank's Global Gas Flaring Reduction partnership. "In Africa alone about 40 billion cubic meters of gas are burned every year, which if put to use could generate half of the electricity needed in that continent," he says.

When crude oil is brought to the Earth's surface, gas associated with the extraction frequently surfaces as well. Rather than simply burning it off, the World Bank supports exploiting the resource by injecting it into the ground for reuse in oil production, converting it to liquid natural gas, transporting it via pipeline, or tapping it to generate electricity on-site. If the natural gas burned off in 2006 had been sold on the U.S. market, it would have been worth $40 billion, or 27 percent of U.S. natural gas consumption, the Bank notes. But in remote areas that...

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