Russia is wasting a lot of natural gas, according to data provided to BBC News, while Europe’s energy prices are rising rapidly.
Some sources claim that the plant on the Finnish border is wasting around $10m (£8.4m) in gas per day.
According to experts, the gas was destined for export to Germany.
Russian officials burned the gas because “they couldn’t sell it anywhere,” the German ambassador to the UK told BBC News.
Large amounts of carbon dioxide and soot are being produced, and scientists are worried that this could speed up the melting of Arctic ice.
According to Rystad Energy’s findings, the flare consumes about 4.34 million cubic meters of gas daily.
It’s being produced in a brand-new LNG plant in Portovaya, near the northwest of St. Petersburg.
At the beginning of the summer, residents of Finland across the border noticed a gigantic flame on the horizon, the first indication that something was wrong.
The beginning of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which transports gas under the sea to Germany, is located near Portovaya, and it is serviced by a compressor station.
Since about mid-July, shipments across the pipeline have been capped, with the Russians citing technical difficulties as the reason. After Russia invaded Ukraine, Germany says this was a completely political measure.
The heat from the facility has increased dramatically since June, according to researchers. This is likely due to gas flaring, or the burning of natural gas.
Processing plants frequently burn off excess gas for technical or safety reasons, but the scope of this burn has baffled specialists.
Dr. Jessica McCarty, a satellite data expert from Miami University in Ohio, remarked, “I’ve never seen an LNG plant flare so often.”
Around June is when we first noticed the peak, and it kept rising. It has maintained a very unusually high level.
European measures to lessen dependency on Russian gas are “having a big influence on the Russian economy,” as the German ambassador to the UK, Miguel Berger, told BBC News.
He hypothesized, “Since they can’t export their gas elsewhere, they’re forced to burn it.”
Mark Davis, the head honcho of Capterio, is on the front lines of the effort to put an end to gas flaring.
The flaring, he claims, is not a mistake but rather a calculated choice made for practical reasons.
He told BBC News that operators are often cautious to shut down facilities for fear that they will be difficult or expensive to restart, and that this is likely the case here.
Some have speculated that the massive amounts of gas being fed to the Nord Stream 1 pipeline could pose technological difficulties.
Gazprom, a Russian energy giant, may have wanted to use the gas to produce LNG at the new plant, but there may have been complications, making flare-off the safer option.
Possible causes include the European Union’s trade ban against Russia in response to the latter’s invasion of Ukraine.
According to ESA Vakkilainen, a professor of energy engineering at LUT University in Finland, “this kind of long-term flaring may suggest that they are missing certain equipment.”
Thus, the trade ban with Russia prevents them from producing the high-quality valves required in oil and gas processing. Perhaps some of the valves are malfunctioning and cannot be replaced.
The plant’s owner, Gazprom, a state-controlled energy behemoth in Russia, has not commented on the flaring despite repeated inquiries.
Scientists warn that the financial and environmental consequences will increase with every day the flare is active.
“While the actual causes for the flaring are unknown, the volumes, emissions, and position of the flare are a visible reminder of Russia’s dominance in Europe’s energy markets,” explained Sindre Knutsson from Rystad Energy.
Russia’s ability to reduce energy costs by tomorrow could not be more clearly signaled. Natural gas that could have been exported through Nord Stream 1 or another route is instead being used domestically.
As Covid lockdowns were removed and economies restored to normal, energy prices spiked around the world. There was an unusual surge in demand for energy from a wide variety of commercial, industrial, and recreational establishments all at once.
After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, prices went up again. The governments of Europe looked for ways to reduce their reliance on Russia, which had been providing 40% of the EU’s gas needs.
As a result, the cost of natural gas alternatives increased, prompting certain European Union (EU) countries, such as Germany and Spain, to implement energy-saving policies.
Scientists are worried about the effects of the burning on the ecosystem.
Researchers have found that flaring is significantly more beneficial than simply venting the gas since methane, the gas’s primary component is a very potent climate warming agent.
Russia has a history of wastefully flaring off the gas, and the World Bank even ranks it as the top country in terms of total gas flared.
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But the burning also generates other serious problems, including the release of nearly 9,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent every day from this flare.
Black carbon refers to the sooty particles created when fuels like natural gas are burned improperly.
Prof. Matthew Johnson of Canada’s Carleton University emphasized the need of preventing Arctic flaring because of the northward transfer of released black carbon, which settles on snow and ice and dramatically accelerates melting.
It is especially concerning as flaring is already thought to be the primary source of black carbon deposition in the Arctic, according to some authoritative estimates.
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