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Top Oil-Producing Nations, Majors Join World Bank to End Flaring by 2030

Nine of the world's top oil-producing nations have joined 10 oil and gas companies -- including several majors -- to launch a global initiative with The World Bank and other institutions to end the flaring of associated gas at oil production sites by 2030.

The initiative, "Zero Routine Flaring by 2030," was unveiled Friday during the 2015 World Bank Group-IMF Spring Meetings in Washington. Collectively, the nine countries and 10 companies to pledge to the initiative produce more than 40% of the gas flared globally.

According to The World Bank, approximately 140 billion cubic meters of global associated gas is flared annually, releasing more than 300 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere.

"Gas flaring is a visual reminder that we are wastefully sending CO2 into the atmosphere," World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said. "We can do something about this. Together we can take concrete action to end flaring and to use this valuable natural resource to light the darkness for those without electricity."

The 10 companies committed to the initiative include several majors: Royal Dutch Shell plc, France's Total SA, Norway's Statoil, Italy's Eni SpA, and BG Group. The others are the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic, Cameroon's Societe Nationale des Hydocarbures, Ecuador's Petroamazonas EP, Kuwait Oil Co. and the Republic of the Congo's Societe Nationale des Petroles.

Nine governments -- Angola, Cameroon, the Republic of Congo, France, Gabon, Kazakhstan, Norway, Russia and Uzbekistan -- also signed on to the agreement, as did the African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Islamic Development Bank and United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Initiative (SEAI).

"The strong support for this initiative by so many major players in the oil and gas industry is a real milestone," said Kandeh Yumkella, CEO of SEAI. "The routine flaring of gas is not just an environmental threat, but a shocking waste of a resource that can be tapped to provide energy to those who currently have none. The benefits of curbing that waste will be far-reaching, for both the planet and its people."

The World Bank said the agreement calls for the aforementioned oil companies to develop new oil fields with "plans that incorporate sustainable utilization or conservation of the field's associated gas without routine flaring." At existing fields where routine flaring is already occurring, the companies will "seek to implement economically viable solutions to eliminate this legacy flaring as soon as possible, and no later than 2030."

For their part, the governments will "provide a legal, regulatory, investment and operating environment that is conducive to upstream investments and to the development of viable markets for utilization of the gas and the infrastructure necessary to deliver the gas to these markets," the bank said. The governments will also stipulate that the development of new fields must be done without gas flaring.

According to the World Bank, satellite data from 2012 shows the top eight countries for flaring are Russia, Nigeria, Iran, Iraq, the United States, Algeria, Kazakhstan and Venezuela. Together, the eight countries account for more than 65% of the world's total flaring.

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