Production flaring accounts for around than 40% of global gas flaring activities, and is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, so the United Nations and World Bank have just announced the Zero routine flaring by 2030 initiative.
Launched by US secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and World Bank president Jim Yong Kim as part of the World Bank Spring meeting in the USA the initiative has already been endorsed by nine countries, 10 oil companies and six development institutions.
Royal Dutch Shell, Total, Statoil, Eni, BG Group, Kuwait Oil Company, Ecuador's Petroamazonas, Azerbaijan's State Oil Company, Societe Nationale des Petroles du Congo, and Societe Nationale des Hydrocarbones of Cameroon have all signed up as have the governments Norway, Cameroon, Russia, Kazakhstan, Gabon, Uzbekistan, Republic of Congo, Angola and France.
Also on board are the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank and Islamic Development Bank.
By endorsing the initiative, governments, oil companies and development institutions have recognised that routine gas flaring was unsustainable from a resource management and environmental perspective.
About 500 billion cubic feet of natural gas per annum is flared as a means of disposing natural gas associated with oil fields around the world where there is no infrastructure built to take the gas to markets.
Around 300 million tonnes of carbon dioxide is vented into the atmosphere, an equivalent to emissions from 77 million cars.
If the amount of associated gas were used for power generation, it could provide more than 750 billion kilowatts of electricity, more than the electricity consumption capacity of the entire African continent.
The flare rate in the Middle East region records around enough to feed a 20Mt LNG plant, 100Bcf per annum, while Nigeria flares 50Bcf per annum, and is the second worst flaring nation behind Russia.
And the issue is getting worse in the developed world, with reports the US is flaring $100 million per month of unwanted gas associated with shale oil production from areas like the prolific Bakken Shale.
The World Bank will publicly report their flaring activities as well as progress towards the target date on an annual basis.
Routine flaring will be prohibited for new oil fields developments, and governments have incentives to provide an operating environment conducive to investment and the development of new energy markets.
The UN wants to see all oil-producing countries and companies to join the initiative,
The World Bank has been active on the issues of eliminating gas flaring in oil fields in the last 15 years, as a founding member of the Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership by helping remove the technical and regulatory barriers to flaring reduction.
The bank has set aside more than $1 billion in risk financing to back the use of flared gas from oil fields across Africa to generate power.