Flaring and venting from UK onshore oil sites 2016-2023

Author: David Bamford

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The recent history of flaring and methane emissions onshore U.K. is a microcosm of the global pattern – either flatlining or going up!

During 2021 – 2024 intrepid investigators from the Clean Air Task Force (CATF) have visited many onshore U.K. oil & gas facilities utilising handheld Flir sensors to evidence methane emissions; the results of their recordings are summarised in these two articles:

And we can namecheck a few fields – Singleton, Kimmeridge, Horndean, Stockbridge (Larkwhistle Farm) – in the Weald and Wessex basins where there seems to have been no significant change over the 3 years covered by CATF’s surveillance.

As our opening graphic shows, volumetrically much more methane is wasted in flaring than in emissions and, unfortunately, satellite imagery reveals that most onshore U.K. fields are flaring, some intermittently, some continuously.

This first image shows that whereas there are many significant flares to be seen offshore in the UKCS, there is only one immediately visible onshore – see the small red dot just NW of Southampton/the Solent – and it turns out this is the aforementioned Singleton field in the Weald basin.

Flares to be seen offshore in the UKCS
Offshore and onshore flares in the UKCS

One of the advantages of satellite data is that we can go back several years if we wish: the next image looks at Singleton over just a few months, using both Short Wave Infrared and Thermal Band images – a reasonable interpretation of these images is that flaring has, at least recently, been continuous at this site.

Singleton field flaring changes over time
Singleton field flaring changes over time

Likewise at the famous Kimmeridge 1 well, in the Wessex basin, this pair of images again demonstrates that, at least recently, flaring has been continuous at this site.

Kimmeridge 1 well flaring has recently been continuous

For our final investigation, we head up to the NE corner of the Weald basin, to the Bletchingley field and again we can reasonably interpret these images as indicating that flaring has been occurring at this site, possibly intermittently.

Bletchingley field also shows flaring

It is worth noting that satellite data covering around the last 10 years can easily be accessed and so the regulator could use it to offer onshore companies ‘no hiding place’ on flaring. Their own graphic seems to suggest that they haven’t been doing so…….


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