UKCS Flaring and Venting 2020 Report
The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) is fully committed to supporting achievement of the UK’s net zero emissions target and is working with government and industry on the vital role that the oil and gas industry must play in the UK energy transition.
The OGA has signalled its intent to refresh its core aim to include a requirement for industry to help the government achieve the target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 (consultation here). The OGA has committed to incorporate OGUK industry emissions reduction targets into OGA data benchmarking to track and monitor performance and progress. Both of these areas will require increased focus on flaring and venting and associated greenhouse gas emissions.
This report outlines the recent levels of flaring and venting activity associated with oil and gas production on the United Kingdom Continental Shelf (UKCS) and the contribution of this activity to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It provides an indication of relative performance levels offshore by using peer groups to set benchmarks for typical flaring and venting volumes and resulting emissions.
Flaring and venting are controlled processes to dispose of waste gas, essential for emergency and safety purposes on oil and gas installations, and in situations where it may not feasible for the gas to be used, exported or re-injected. Flaring is the burning of gas, and venting is the release of unburned gas.
The OGA is encouraged by industry’s awareness of the need to deal with the serious issue of emissions caused by flaring and venting and is seeing evidence of positive action.
Data sources used in this report include: the OGA's Petroleum Production Reporting System (PPRS); the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) Union Registry of verified carbon dioxide emissions; and the Environmental Emissions Monitoring System (EEMS). EEMS is maintained by the Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning (OPRED) and is the environmental database of the UK oil and gas industry. The quality of these data can vary, however the OGA is working with industry and other key stakeholders to continuously improve this.
The detailed findings have been presented in this report as a series of Power BI Dashboards. These can be interacted with by toggling between flaring and venting statistics and to filter data, for instance, by year or by facility type.
Offshore Flaring and Venting Key Figures
Hover over icons to see more
42 bcf of gas was flared from offshore production facilities on the UKCS in 2019.
4% decrease from 2018.
The average production facility flared 0.5 bcf of gas in 2019.
Majority of flaring is designated as Category 1 or Base Load Flare.
Flaring comprises a quarter of UKCS Scope 1 carbon dioxide emissions. Scope 1 emissions include all direct emissions from field operations, for example those from: flaring, venting, power generation and fuel combustion.
The UKCS flaring intensity and flaring emissions intensity in 2019 were 114 scf/bbl and 5 kgCO2/boe respectively.
0.7 bcf of gas was vented from offshore production facilities on the UKCS in 2019.
34% decrease from 2018.
The average production facility vented 23 mmscf of gas in 2019.
Venting is estimated to comprise around 1% of UKCS Scope 1 carbon dioxide emissions but around half of Scope 1 methane emissions.
0.05% of all produced gas in 2019 was vented.
Report Section Links
UKCS Gas Production
An estimated 1,560 billion cubic feet (bcf) of natural gas was produced from the United Kingdom Continental Shelf (UKCS) in 2019. Excluding gas which was injected back into the reservoir, 88% of produced gas was exported to market, with 9% being utilised offshore as a fuel. The remaining 3% of gas produced was flared or vented at the offshore installation for either safety, operational or economic reasons. Of that 3%, 98% of gas was flared and 2% was vented.
This composition has stayed relatively constant since 2012, with a slight decrease in the amount of gas being sent to export. This has been attributed to a decrease in production of dry gas and an increase in associated gas, the latter being primarily linked to gas flaring. Recent increases in associated gas production have come from new developments in the West of Shetland (WoS) region and both new and existing developments in the Central North Sea (CNS) region.
Natural gas produced in conjunction with oil or liquid hydrocarbons from an oil or condensate field.
In the reservoir, associated gas exists either dissolved within the oil or as free gas in the gas cap.
Associated gas is generally considered a secondary product to oil.
Natural gas produced from a gas field where there is little or no condensate or reservoir liquids.
Dry gas produced from a gas field is the primary commodity.
The majority of dry gas produced on the UKCS comes from Southern North Sea (SNS) gas fields.
Flaring and Venting Benchmarking
1 BBL PRODUCED
114 SCF GAS FLARED
2019 UKCS Flaring Intensity
Flaring and Venting GHG Emissions
Flaring Emissions Benchmarking
Global Warming Potential (GWP) Factors of 25 and 298 have been used for methane and nitrous oxide respectively. These figures are consistent with the Fourth Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Metering of flaring poses challenges due to the large range of operating conditions associated with the process. Flared gas values reported here represent operators' best estimates.
Greenhouse gases resulting from flaring activity are mainly calculated rather than measured due to the inherent technical difficulties involved in metering flared exhaust gases. Values are generally calculated using emissions factors and gas composition and combustion efficiency assumptions. Further details about this can be found at the following links for EEMS atmospherics data and ETS data respectively.
The issues listed in the above two points show the relatively high level of uncertainty present within these datasets. Findings presented here signify high level trends and behaviours.
Glossary of terms
Scope 1 emissions
Billion (standard) cubic feet of gas
Barrel of oil equivalent
Carbon dioxide equivalent
Vented hydrocarbon gas emissions that should normally be combusted at the flare tip
A system for the removal of water from natural gas and natural gas liquids (NGL)
The warming caused by any greenhouse gas, as a multiple of the warming caused by the same mass of carbon dioxide.
Platforms where the jacket weighs 10,000 tonnes or more. Includes a small number of concrete gravity based structures.
A derivative of ammonia used to remove acidic gases from natural gas streams.
million (standard) cubic feet of gas
A small amount of gas introduced into a flare tip that provides a flame to ignite further relieved gas.
Gas introduced between a flare header's water seal and the flare tip to prevent oxygen infiltration (backflow) into the flare tip.
Direct emissions from owned or controlled sources. In the context of the UKCS, this includes all emissions originating from offshore facilities.
Platforms where the jacket weights less than 10,000 tonnes.
Natural gas containing a high content of hydrogen sulfide.
Standard cubic feet. A cubic foot of gas at atmospheric pressure and a temperature of 15 degrees celsius.