According to information provided to BBC News, Russia is burning off significant volumes of natural gas while the cost of electricity in Europe soars.
They claim that the facility, close to the Finnish border, burns over $10 million (£8.4 million) worth of gas daily.
According to experts, the gas would have previously been shipped to Germany.
According to BBC News, the German ambassador to the UK, Russia was burning the gas because “they couldn’t sell it anywhere.”
The enormous amounts of carbon dioxide and soot that are being produced worry scientists because they might speed up the melting of the Arctic ice.
Rystad Energy’s study shows that the flare burns about 4.34 million cubic meters of gas daily.
It originates from Portovaya, a new LNG facility northwest of St. Petersburg.
The first indications that something was wrong came from Finns, who crossed the local border early this summer and saw a big flame on the horizon.
The compressor plant at the beginning of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which delivers gas beneath the sea to Germany, is not far from Portovaya.
Since mid-July, supplies through the pipeline have been restricted; the Russians attribute the limitation to technical problems. However, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Germany claims it was solely political.
However, since June, scientists have seen a dramatic rise in the facility’s heat output, which they believe results from gas flaring or burning natural gas.
Even while processing facilities frequently burn off gas, typically for technical or safety reasons, the size of this burn has baffled specialists.
“I’ve never seen an LNG plant flare so much,” said Dr. Jessica McCarty, an expert on satellite data from Miami University in Ohio.
“Starting around June, we saw this huge peak, and it didn’t go away. Instead, it’s stayed very anomalously high.”
Miguel Berger, the German ambassador to the UK, told BBC News that European efforts to reduce reliance on Russian gas were “having a strong effect on the Russian economy.”
“They don’t have other places where they can sell their gas, so they have to burn it,” he suggested.
The CEO of Capterio, a business concerned with addressing gas flaring, is Mark Davis.
According to him, the flare was not an accident and was probably planned for operational purposes.
“Operators often are very hesitant to shut down facilities for fear that they may be technically difficult or costly to start up again, and it’s probably the case here,” he told BBC News.
Others think handling the substantial amounts of gas sent to the Nord Stream 1 pipeline might provide technological difficulties.
Although it’s possible that Russian energy giant Gazprom intended to use the gas to produce LNG at the new facility, handling issues may have arisen, and the safest course of action is to flare it off.
As a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Europe may have imposed a trade embargo on Russia.
“This kind of long-term flaring may mean that they are missing some equipment,” said Esa Vakkilainen, an energy engineering professor from Finland’s LUT University.
“So, because of the trade embargo with Russia, they cannot make the high-quality valves needed in oil and gas processing. So maybe there are some valves broken, and they can’t get them replaced.”
Requests for comment on the flaring have gone unanswered by Gazprom, the state-controlled energy behemoth owned by Russia and the facility’s owner.
According to specialists, the environmental and economic costs rise daily while the flare burns.
The flare’s quantities, emissions, and position are a clear reminder of Russia’s dominance in Europe’s energy markets, according to Sindre Knutsson of Rystad Energy, even though the precise causes of the flaring remain unknown.
“There is no clearer indication that Russia can reduce energy prices tomorrow. Normally, this gas would have been exported through Nord Stream 1 or other channels.”
As Covid lockdowns were removed and economies stabilized, energy prices soared globally. At the same time, several locations for work, industry, and recreation unexpectedly required more energy, placing unprecedented pressure on supplies.
Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February this year, prices rose again. Since 40% of the gas used in the EU had previously come from Russia, European countries sought ways to import less energy from that country.
As a result, the cost of alternative gas sources increased, and some EU countries, like Germany and Spain, are now implementing energy-saving policies.
Scientists are concerned about burning’s effects on the environment.
The gas’s primary component, methane, a very potent global warming agent, is said to be far better flared than merely vented.
Russia has a history of flaring gas; the World Bank ranks it as the country with the highest flaring volume.
But in addition to this flare’s daily emissions of nearly 9,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent, burning has additional serious consequences.
The sooty particles created by incomplete combustion of fuels like natural gas are known as black carbon.
“Of particular concern with flaring at the Arctic latitudes is the transport of emitted black carbon northward where it deposits on snow and ice and significantly accelerates melting,” said Prof Matthew Johnson from Carleton University in Canada.
“Some highly cited estimates already put flaring as the dominant source of black carbon deposition in the Arctic, and any increases in flaring in this region are especially unwelcome.”
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