“Flaring mitigation is an excellent means of reducing the amount of black carbon emissions, which has a positive impact on climate change and a direct positive impact for people,” says Dave Picard, the President of Clearstone Engineering Ltd. in Calgary, Canada. “Acting on these opportunities can have a big impact on the lives of people living near these facilities.”
Black carbon only remains in the atmosphere for days to weeks which means that, as with all short-lived climate pollutants, reducing it would have immediate benefits.
Between July 2017 and July 2019, Picard and Michael Layer, the Senior Program Manager for Natural Resources Canada took three trips to Colombia to survey eight oil and gas facilities that either had high flaring rates or were representative of highly replicable flaring reduction opportunities.
Along the way, they heard repeated stories that underscored the importance of their research: mothers who went to their garden to harvest vegetables stained with black soot; families who desperately drew the curtains in the middle of the night in a fruitless attempt to ward off the bright lights and incessant noise caused by flaring. Other families reported their children had developed asthma or were prone to frequent illness.
In addition to the social and medical effects of flaring, it’s also a waste of resources. The environmental and socioeconomic impacts of gas flaring results in estimated economic losses of over $5 billion in Russia and $11 billion in Nigeria. The product they are burning off is also potentially lost revenue. This means that companies should be doubly incentivized to reduce unnecessary flaring. To fill the gap, Picard and Layer are getting them precise measurements of the potential benefits and credible business cases showing how the flaring can be cost-effectively mitigated.
“When facilities are flaring they think of the gas they're burning as waste,” Layer says of Picard’s work. “Dave is going in and showing them that this waste product is something that they have not accurately monetized or valued and is working with them to develop practicable mitigation strategies.”