North Sea oil-flaring practice found to output as much carbon as a coal plant

North Sea oil and gas firms produce annual carbon emissions equivalent to a coal plant through flaring and venting activites, an investigation has revealed.

 Unearthed, a journalistic investigation body funded by Greenpeace, obtained figures through Environmental Information Regulations requests which show that almost  20m tonnes of CO2 equivalent were released in the five years to 2019.

The investigation specifically named Repsol Sinopec, Total, Shell, BP and EnQuest as the top five worth offenders for carbon emissions.

Flaring and venting is the practice of deliberately burning off gas produced together with oil from reservoirs for both safety reasons and for commercial reasons.

Norway, which also has significant oil interests in the North Sea, banned the practice of non-emergency flaring 1972. But Unearthed said that UK restrictions on flaring and venting set by the Oil and Gas Authority are “weak”, noting that the rate of flaring on the UK Continental Shelf is 11 times higher than in Norway and twice the North Sea average.

Mel Evans, senior oil campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said: “The government’s failure to stop companies flaring and venting a coal plant’s worth of carbon is disgraceful.

“Norway tackled this problem in the 1970s, but our government is clearly asleep at the wheel.

“To stand any chance of meeting our climate targets we need strong government action to regulate this industry and secure a safe and fair phaseout of oil and gas that supports workers and communities.

“The government must stop licensing new oil, and start rolling out offshore wind at scale, while supporting offshore workers to transition to jobs in decommissioning and renewables.”

The Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult warned in November that the number of jobs in the North Sea energy sector could fall by 20 per cent in the near future without investment in the clean technologies.