Latest data shows that state-run oil and gas fields in the United Arab Emirates have been flaring gas virtually daily despite having committed 20 years ago to a policy of zero routine flaring.
The UAE is set to host the UN Cop28 summit, which starts on 30 November, and Sultan Al Jaber, the CEO of the state oil company Adnoc, will preside over the international negotiations to urgently tackle the climate crisis.
Flaring which is used to describe the burning of extracted gas that is not captured and sold, and it has been called “wasteful and polluting” by the World Bank, occurs when no equipment has been installed to capture it or when gas has to be unexpectedly released for safety reasons.
Flaring also allows the escape of some unburned methane gas, which is a powerful greenhouse gas.
Data shows that One field, Adnoc LNG, flared gas on more than 99% of the days monitored by satellite from 2018 to 2022, according to data produced for the Guardian by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (Crea). One expert said this was routine flaring “by any normal definition”.
Among other things, the analysis assessed flaring in 32 oil and gas fields in the UAE, 20 of which are run by Adnoc. It shows four fields flared on at least 97% of the days for which data was available, which was most days as measurements were interrupted by cloud cover on only one day in five.
The World Bank runs an initiative to achieve zero routine flaring by 2030. The UAE and Adnoc are not members, though nearby states and companies are, including Bahrain and Saudi Aramco.
A spokesperson for Adnoc was quoted as saying that the data was “misleading as satellite images may not distinguish between flaring or having a pilot flame ignited as part of normal operations”. However, several experts said pilot flames were unlikely to explain the near daily flame detections. Adnoc did not respond to a request for data on the company’s use of pilot flames.
“You wouldn’t normally see pilot flames from space,” said Dr Paul Balcombe, of Queen Mary University of London, who was not involved in producing the Crea data. “A pilot flame would have to be really big to be seen, in which case we still have a problem with large and unnecessary emissions.”
Story was adapted from the Guardian.