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World Economic Forum Energy for Society Initiative highlights best practices

By André Chanavat | 11 September

The Energy for Society Initiative launched today is an engagement of the World Economic Forum’s Energy Industry Community. The initiative is supported by a new online platform with 24 case studies that demonstrate corporate best practices for meeting the world’s growing need for energy while improving living standards for those with limited access to energy.

One of those companies highlighted is Statoil which has decided to co-chair with the World Bank a campaign on gas-flaring reduction as part of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative launched by the United Nations.  So on the topic of flaring gases here is a quick question: Out of 194 Oil and Gas companies, how many disclosed in the public domain their gas flaring emissions in tonnes for fiscal year 2010? The answer might surprise you, 20.

In other words almost 9 out of 10 Oil and Gas companies don’t disclose in the public domain what their flaring gas emissions are.  Whilst Statoil should be commended for disclosing their flaring gas figures in addition to reducing them, many others in the industry should follow in their example.  According to the World Bank website, “Global gas flaring, estimated in 2011 at 140 billion cubic meters (bcm), also accounts for some 360 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Eliminating these annual emissions is equivalent to taking some 70 million cars off the road”. The scale of flaring is significant and therefore a successful downward trend in these emissions should be measured and made open to wider scrutiny.

Based on data compiled from the ASSET4 database which sources publicly available information such as company annual reports, CSR reports, company websites etc, over the last 10 fiscal years there have been incremental improvements in voluntary disclosure: FY2008 – 7%, FY2009 - 9%, FY2010 - 10% and we anticipate this trend to continue. However even with an estimated 12% of Oil and Gas companies disclosing their flaring gas emissions for FY2011 there is still plenty of room for improvement.

The announcement made by Statoil via the WEF’s energy for society site, that it has decided to co-chair with the World Bank a campaign on gas-flaring reduction should also be welcomed.  The GGRF (global gas flaring reduction) a World Bank-led initiative provides a wealth of information around this topic, with links to satellite imagery highlighting the increasing importance of monitoring these emissions from space. The World Bank has also helped fund key projects such as with a branch of the United States NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) called the Earth Observation Group into the effectiveness of such measurements from space, with preliminary results being promising.

It’s also worth mentioning that the advent of cheap or free access to high resolution satellite imagery via Google Earth has also helped with this research so as to visually confirm other space based observations thereby improving the accuracy of the estimates.  That said there’s still plenty of room for improvement regarding satellite remote sensors used in observing gas flares and the models used to crunch their data.  Companies such as Remote Sensing Solutions and future satellites such as the ESA (European Space Agency) earth observation satellite SENTINEL-3 due for launch in 2014 should help with continued and improved monitoring of gas flares from space.  So by having better voluntary company disclosure, accurate remote sensing data from space and independent bodies to verify the data it is hoped that companies and nations alike can be better measured on whether or not they live up to their promises.

The below screen shot was taken from a video made available on the NOAA – Earth Observation website illustrates the scale of gas flaring around the world in bcm (billions of cubic meters) using Google Earth.


Corporate Governance

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