Moanda gas flaring

Moanda gas flaring


Flare pit

The Moanda oilfield was briefly visited but not inspected by UNEP-MENCT and so there is no opinion on the detailed environmental impact of the operation. One item is clear and requires no inspection – the Moanda onshore field operates with production flaring. What this means in practice is that the hydrocarbons extracted are a mixture of oil and gas. The gas is separated off, in this case very close to the wellhead, and is burnt off via a simple torch placed inside a bund. These gas flames are visible throughout the field.

At the local level, gas flaring on the scale noted is not normally a health issue unless substantive amounts of sulphur are present –which appears not to be the case in Muanda. On safety, clearly the flare pits should be better protected – to protect both the local population and the environment from brushfire risk.

The real issue is however the wasted resource – substantial volumes of fossil fuel are being wasted, at the same time contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. For this reason, production flaring is banned in many countries and is gradually being phased out worldwide as practices improve.


Oil pump

The principal obstacle to stopping gas flaring is always economic. To produce oil the natural gas generally must be extracted at the same time. The available options are then re-injection, flaring or productive use. Re-injection is normally technically difficult, expensive and commonly not technically viable. Flaring is inexpensive but wastes the resource and has environmental impacts. The preferred option is productive use. This is particularly the case in DR Congo, a country with a huge unmet demand for energy. Perenco already supplies the town with both electricity and gas/oil for energy generation – clearly there is still gas to spare.

There are a range of options for the use of the natural gas at Moanda; however the economic feasibility of these would need to be explored. Potential options include bottled gas and ammonia-fertiliser plants (DR Congo currently imports all of its fertiliser).

Engineering solutions would need to be supplemented and motivated in part by government policy and regulations. Onshore production flaring should be prohibited for future production facilities and new wells and phased out for existing wells, with a substantive implementation lead time providing space for Perenco to develop and build the solutions. The feasibility of prohibiting offshore production flaring would need to be explored.

Recommendations

1.Perenco, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Health do a joint case study on the lack of implementation of environmental and health norms with regards to flaring and the health of surrounding communities.  
Cost to be determined.
Consultants to be hired.
Duration to be determined.

2. Perenco, the Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of Environment undertake a joint feasibility study for the phase out of flaring and the productive use of the natural gas in the Moanda field. As Perenco has a clear vested interest, an independent expert should review the results produced by Perenco contractors and consultants.
Cost: $0.4M
Source of Finance: Perenco
Duration: 6 months
Implementing agent: Perenco under Min Energy and MENCT oversight with independent technical assistance.

3. Based upon the results of the study, MENCT and Ministry of Energy, review policy and legislation options for phasing out flaring at Moanda.
Cost: Nil, policy issue
Duration: 6 months

Further information and local partners below (or here for the full list):

Further information on Perenco activities in the DRC can be found at:
www.perenco.com

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