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Ebtekar pledges end to flaring in 2019 (unlikely).

Iran's environmental chief, Masumeh Ebtekar, says the flaring of gas in Iran will come to a complete end in 2019, which would be a stunning accomplishment.

Iran last year boasted that it had cut flaring by 90 percent. But last December, the World Bank said Iran was lying and had actually increased flaring last year.

Flaring is the burning of gases that come out of the ground along with crude oil. The flared gas adds to air pollution and wastes a limited resource.

According to Climate Change News, in 2015, 147 billion cubic meters of natural gas were flared at oil production sites across the world--more than enough to meet the current annual electricity needs of the whole of Africa.

Iran is the third biggest gas-flaring country after Russia and Iraq. According to a report by the Majlis Research Center, around 17 billion cubic meters of gas are burned off in Iran annually, which translates into a $4-to-6 billion loss.

Now Ebtekar says that will all come to an end in 2019.

Some may doubt that pledge.

Just last December, the World Bank said the Islamic Republic was lying about its efforts to reduce flaring. In 2015, Iran boasted it had reduced the amount of natural gas that it flares or burns off in oilfields by 90 percent. The World Bank issued a report in December saying a satellite study showed Iran increased flaring by 10 percent in that time period.

The World Bank used satellite censors to measure flaring around the world in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

In May 2013, Iranian Deputy Oil Minister Mohsen Khojasteh-Mehr said 90 percent of all the natural gas that Iran was then flaring around the country would be gathered and used within two years. In June 2015, Khojasteh-Mehr announced the goal had been reached.

In 2013, Khojasteh-Mehr, who served under President Ahmadi-nejad, said Iran was flaring 13.5 billion cubic meters of gas a year, or about 10 percent of its production. In 2015, he said the country was flaring 1.5 billion cubic meters, a reduction of 89 percent.

But the World Bank, without noting what Khojasteh-Mehr claimed, said Iran's flaring actually rose from 11 billion cubic meters in 2013 to 12 billion cubic meters in 2015.

Iran has historically captured much less gas than most oil producers. Critics have pointed out that the gas Iran flares could have produced more electricity than several Bushehr nuclear power plants--and done that at much less cost.

Captured gas can be used to generate power and or can be pumped back into oilfields to maintain pressure and slow the natural decline in oil production rates. Khojasteh-Mehr did not say what Iran was doing with the gas no longer being flared.

Compared with Iran's history of burning off 10 percent of its natural gas output, Saudi Arabia has not even burned off 1 percent for many years.

December's report from the World Bank showed that from 2013 to 2015 flaring declined in only one of the 10 major countries flaring off gas, and that was Nigeria. Flaring remained level in Russia and Venezuela. (See accompanying chart.)

According to the World Bank, Iran was the third largest-scale flarer in the world in 2015, when it flared slightly more gas than the United States despite producing only a third as much oil as the United States.

Gas is often present along with crude in oil reservoirs. If a producer does not have the infrastructure needed to process the gas, the easiest way to dispose of it is generally to burn it off in a flare.

However, flaring causes pollution, as well as releasing carbon dioxide that promotes climate change, and depositing soot on the Arctic ice cap, accelerating its melting.

Flaring also wastes gas that could be used as fuel. The World Bank calculates that in 2015 the oil industry worldwide flared off 147 billion cubic meters, equivalent to the combined consumption of the UK, Germany and Switzerland. If burned in power plants, it could supply the electricity consumption of the whole of Africa.

The total volume flared has been increasing. The increase is disappointing for the World Bank, which launched a Global Gas-Flaring Reduction partnership back in 2002 and calls for an end to all routine gas flaring by 2030.

The World Bank has in the past four years used new satellite-based sensors to identify and evaluate gas flaring more accurately. Its updated estimates show a 4 percent increase in flaring from 2013 to 2015.

Rapid growth in Iraq and the US, where oil production has been rising in recent years, was responsible for much of the increase over 2013-15, more than offsetting reductions in Nigeria and a handful of other countries.

The US shale oil boom has catapulted the country from outside the top 10 flaring nations worldwide in 2008 to number four, behind Russia, Iraq and Iran in 2015.

Shale producers in North Dakota have made strides in finding uses for their gas, however, cutting flaring from 36 percent of its gas production in January 2014 to just 10 percent by March 2016, which was after the end of the World Bank survey.

Uzbekistan is the worst offender in terms of flared gas per barrel produced, according to the World Bank, followed by Cameroon and Turkmenistan, with Gabon, Libya and Algeria also showing relatively high levels of flaring relative to their output.

A total of 62 oil-producing countries and companies have signed up to the World Bank initiative. Iran has not signed up.

Caption: BEAUTY--Flaring gas is beautiful , but costly and polluting.

Caption: EBTEKAR ... pledge to end
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Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:May 26, 2017
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