Satellite-Observed Changes in Mexico's Offshore Gas Flaring Activity Linked to Oil/Gas Regulations


Zhang, Yuzhong, Ritesh Gautam, Daniel Zavala-Araiza, Daniel J. Jacob, Ruixiong Zhang, Lei Zhu, Jian-Xiong Sheng, and Tia Scarpelli. “Satellite-Observed Changes in Mexico's Offshore Gas Flaring Activity Linked to Oil/Gas Regulations.” Geophysical Research Letters 46, no. 3 (2019): 1879-1888.


Abstract Gas flaring is a commonly used practice in the oil and gas sector that leads to key air pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions. Here we use multipollutant (NO2, SO2) satellite observations from 2005 to 2017 to quantify gas flaring activity in Mexico's offshore production cluster, which produces  50–70% of the country's oil and is among the world's largest oil fields. We estimate annual flared gas volume ranging from 5.5 to 20 × 109 m3 over the Mexican offshore corresponding to >40% associated gas production, which is significantly larger than for instance offshore United States where reportedly <3% of associated gas is flared. The 13-year record of satellite-derived gas flaring indicates a drastic increase until 2008 and a decline afterward. While the increased flaring is associated with efforts to enhance oil production, the post-2008 decline is linked to an expanding capacity of associated gas utilization, providing a continuing opportunity to reduce flaring for environmental and economic benefits.