Published on Voices

Boost energy security and cut methane emissions by reducing gas flaring and venting

Gas flaring in Nigeria/Ed Kashi/World Bank Gas flaring in Nigeria/Ed Kashi/World Bank

Geopolitical tensions and the war in Ukraine have upended the global energy landscape.  This has forced many countries to make difficult decisions to ensure they have secure energy supplies while also accelerating the uptake of renewable sources of energy. One clear solution that can boost energy security —while significantly cutting greenhouse gas emissions and expanding energy access in developing countries—is using the gas currently being flared and vented around the world, so called “associated gas.”

The volume of associated gas flared worldwide last year, about 144 billion cubic meters (bcm), was greater than the amount of gas that European Union's 27 member states imported from Russia. Gas flaring alone emits more than 400 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2)-equivalent emissions, of which about 10 percent is in the form of methane.  This is on top of the methane released unnecessarily through gas venting or the often avoidable fugitive methane emissions associated with oil production. Flaring may also be associated with negative health effects for local populations.

Estimates by the World Bank's Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership (GGFR) show that global flaring volumes have dropped by about 20 percent from their 2003 peak of 175 bcm. But some countries continue to flare and vent large amounts of gas that, if instead utilized, could help improve energy access in some of the world's poorest countries while contributing to energy security. For example, if all the gas currently flared around the world was captured and used, it would be enough to generate approximately 1,800 Terawatt hours of energy, roughly equal to the current power generation capacity of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Source: Gütschow, J.; Günther, A.; Pflüger, M. (2021): The PRIMAP-hist national historical emissions time series (1750-2019). v2.3.1. zenodo.

To accelerate the reduction of gas flaring and venting, GGFR's new Global Flaring and Venting Regulations report and website analyses how regulations and policies governing flaring and venting in 21 oil-producing countries have fared. Successful approaches to reducing flaring and venting can serve as a guide and example to other oil-producing countries. Three key findings emerge from the report.

First, global reduction of associated gas flaring and venting has been slow. But some countries have achieved success and can provide regulatory and policy examples to countries that are lagging behind. 

Over the last decade, 10 countries have successfully reduced their flaring intensity (the volume of associated gas flared per barrel of oil produced).


Flaring intensity reduction, 2012-2021


-67 percent


-60 percent


-57 percent


-55 percent

United States (Offshore and Onshore)

-46 percent


-40 percent


-38 percent

United Kingdom

-28 percent


-12 percent


-11 percent


Second, financial and non-financial incentives, combined with robust monitoring and enforcement, are key to successful flaring and venting reduction. In several countries, stiff penalties have helped make alternatives to flaring and venting reduction more economically attractive.

In Kazakhstan, for example, strictly enforced regulations, coupled with a domestic gas market that incentivizes flare gas recovery, have led to the largest overall flare reduction of all countries in the last 10 years, reducing absolute flaring from 4 bcm in 2012 to 1.5 bcm in 2021.

Flare volumes in Colombia also decreased from 1 bcm in 2012 to 0.3 bcm in 2021, thanks to domestic gas utilization and strong regulations that prohibit and penalize any gas being flared or vented. Furthermore, Colombia is among the first countries to adopt a regulation specific to fugitive methane emissions.

When fully enforced and collected effectively, carbon taxes, royalties, or fees payable on gas flared and vented can significantly curb emissions.  Fiscal incentives and penalties are key to reducing flaring and methane emissions, supporting energy access and economic development in many countries.

Third, if the currently flared and vented gas is well regulated and used productively, it would contribute to the energy transition by cutting emissions, reduce the number of new gas field developments that could become stranded assets in the future, and provide better energy access to the local population.  

Stopping the venting and flaring of associated gas is a key priority to reduce emissions.  As stated in our Climate Change Action Plan, we support developing countries to implement initiatives, policies and solutions that decrease the intensity of carbon emissions, including ending routine flaring and venting of gas in the atmosphere, reduce fugitive methane emissions and accelerate the transition to cleaner sources of energy.



Riccardo Puliti

IFC Regional Vice President, Asia and the Pacific

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