Russia likely to increase gas flaring as Europe deals with rocketing prices

A view shows a gas flare at Portovaya Bay in the Gulf of Finland, Russia (REUTERS)
A view shows a gas flare at Portovaya Bay in the Gulf of Finland, Russia (REUTERS)

Russia is likely to ramp up gas flaring in the coming months as the country’s gas storages fill up, international officials have warned.

Trust in Russia as an energy supplier had been eroded globally, International Energy Agency executive director Fatih Birol told a conference in Norway on Monday.

He said the erosion is due to the invasion of Ukraine and subsequent cutbacks of gas exports, and that the loss of Europe as a partner would hurt Moscow.

“Russia is not winning the energy battle here,” Mr Birol said.

“In the absence of (western) companies, in the absence of the technology providers, in the absence of service companies, it will be much harder for Russia to maintain the production,” Mr Birol told Reuters.

The upcoming winter season will be a test of Europe’s solidarity, and if the continent fails when tested, the impact may be felt “beyond this energy crisis”, Mr Birol said.

It comes after Europe and the UK significantly reduced gas imports from Russia as part of harsh economic sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine.

Unlike other countries in Europe, the UK is in no way dependent on Russian gas supply, the government said.

The UK’s single largest source of gas is from the UK Continental Shelf and the vast majority of imports come from suppliers such as Norway.

There are no gas pipelines directly linking the UK with Russia and imports from Russia made up less than 4 per cent of total UK gas supply in 2021.

But Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy exporter, announced plans for unscheduled maintenance of the Nord Stream pipeline that is the main carrier of gas into Germany, prompting the run of record highs on key contracts. Flows through Europe’s single largest piece of gas infrastructure will stop for three days from August 31.

In the UK, wholesale gas prices have also set new highs for the year above the levels touched in the immediate aftermath of the invasion.

Ofgem announced that the price cap would rise on 1 October from £1,971 to £3,549.

Gas flaring is the burning of natural gas associated with oil extraction.

The practice has persisted from the beginning of oil production over 160 years ago and takes place due to a range of issues, from market and economic constraints, to a lack of appropriate regulation and political will, the World Bank said.