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Environment

Much natural gas wasted each year

August 23, 2004 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 82, ISSUE 34

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Credit: PHOTODISC
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Credit: PHOTODISC

More than 100 billion m3 of natural gas, enough to meet the needs of Germany and France, is vented or flared each year, says a report by the Government Accountability Office (formerly the General Accounting Office) released on Aug. 16. The report notes that the price of natural gas in the U.S. has almost tripled since 1995, and the increase in price and demand has hurt U.S. chemical companies that depend on gas for fuel and feedstock. Most of the natural gas is flared in eight countries: Algeria, Angola, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, and Venezuela. The U.S. produces about 24 billion m3 of natural gas annually and flares about 0.4% of that total. Along with wasting resources, flaring and venting also increases greenhouse gas emissions for methane (an estimated 4% of all methane emissions) and carbon dioxide (1%). The report adds that data gathering on flaring and venting is quite weak, and the Energy Information Administration relies mostly on voluntary reporting. GAO says the U.S. government and other nations could greatly reduce global flaring and venting. The report (GAO-04-809) is available at http://www.gao.gov.

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