HSE & Sustainability

UK North Sea Flaring Drops To Record Low

UK offshore oil and gas producers are moving closer to the region's goal of achieving zero routine flaring by 2030.

The BP-operated Eastern Trough Area Project (ETAP) located 240km east of Aberdeen in the UK North Sea.
Source: BP.

New data show that offshore operators in the UK North Sea decreased associated gas flaring volumes by 19% last year. The figure adds to a 22% drop recorded in 2020 and marks the region’s lowest rate of flaring on record.

This is according to the UK Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) which said the year-over-year reduction translates to around 6 Bcf, bringing the total amount of flared gas in 2021 down to 26 Bcf.

The UK’s upstream regulator added that last year’s drop is equivalent to the yearly gas consumption of 130,000 homes in the UK—or more than all the homes in Aberdeen.

In terms of flaring intensity, the annual volume of gas flared per bbl of oil produced fell from 94 scf to 90 scf. This figure has been steadily shrinking since 2017 when flaring intensity stood at 125 scfr/bbl.

“A substantial drop in flaring two years running—reaching its lowest level since we started tracking—is encouraging and reflects both OGA and industry efforts. But there can be no let up if the sector is to reach and surpass emissions reduction targets,” Andy Samuel, the chief executive of OGA, said in a statement.

Producers in the UK North Sea are expected to cease routine flaring and venting by 2030 or sooner, the OGA noted.

Annual volumes of methane venting also dropped by 8% over the past year while the venting of other gases, primarily CO2, dropped 29%.

In addition to proactive measures on the part of offshore oil and gas producers, the OGA has also been intensifying its own efforts to curb flaring. The regulator said it pushed one unnamed major to reinstate a flare gas recovery system on an offshore platform and assisted another operator in identifying faulty valves on a platform “where flaring had become excessive.”

The highlighted reductions were also attributed in part to maintenance shutdowns of facilities and pipelines. Some of this work had been delayed since 2020 due to disruptions stemming from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.