Primary tabs

Satellite‐Observed Changes in Mexico's Offshore Gas Flaring Activity Linked...

Zhang, Y., R. Gautam, D. Zavala‐Araiza, D. Jacob, R. Zhang, L. Zhu, J. Sheng, and T. Scarpelli (2019), Satellite‐Observed Changes in Mexico's Offshore Gas Flaring Activity Linked to Oil/Gas Regulations, Geophys. Res. Lett., 46, 1879-1888, doi:10.1029/2018GL081145.
Abstract: 

Gas flaring is a commonly used practice in the oil and gas sector that leads to key air pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions. Here we use multipollutant (NO2, SO2) satellite observations from 2005 to 2017 to quantify gas flaring activity in Mexico's offshore production cluster, which produces ~50–70% of the country's oil and is among the world's largest oil fields. We estimate annual flared gas volume ranging from 5.5 to 20 × 109 m3 over the Mexican offshore corresponding to >40% associated gas production, which is significantly larger than for instance offshore United States where reportedly <3% of associated gas is flared. The 13‐year record of satellite‐derived gas flaring indicates a drastic increase until 2008 and a decline afterward. While the increased flaring is associated with efforts to enhance oil production, the post‐2008 decline is linked to an expanding capacity of associated gas utilization, providing a continuing opportunity to reduce flaring for environmental and economic benefits. Plain Language Summary Gas flaring, a commonly used practice in the oil and gas sector to burn off associated natural gas, leads to significant economic loss and emissions of key air pollutants (e.g., SO2 and NO2) and greenhouse gases (e.g., methane and carbon dioxide). Global efforts have been underway to reduce gas flaring, which is considered a viable mitigation option to reduce criteria air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions, because of technology availability and potential economic gains. In this context, it becomes increasingly important to independently quantify and track gas flaring activity over time, as well as independently evaluate progress in oil/gas regulations and policy implementation, toward mitigation measures. Here we applied a combined analysis of satellite NO2 and SO2 observations over offshore Mexico, one of the world's largest offshore oil production complexes, during 2005–2017. The 13‐year record showed an increase in gas flaring until 2008 associated with efforts to enhance oil production and a decline after 2008 linked to an expanding capacity of associated gas utilization.

PDF of Publication: 
Download from publisher's website.
Research Program: 
Carbon Cycle & Ecosystems Program (CCEP)