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Russia burns large amounts of gas amid supply cuts to Europe

August 26, 2022

An orange beacon of gas has been burning on the Finnish border for months. At the same time, Europe is struggling to fulfil its energy needs.

The large flare at the Portovaya facility seen from Finland
Russia has been burning off the gas since it closed the Nord Stream 1 pipeline for alleged maintenance workImage: Heikki Saukkomaa/AP Photo/picture alliance

Russia has been wasting vast amounts of natural gas while cutting its supplies to Europe, analysts from the Norwegian energy consultancy Rystad Energy revealed on Friday.

Satellite images of the Portovaya compression station show a huge flare as large amounts of gas are burned off.

The facility is close to the border with Finland and is part of the network that feeds the Nord Stream 1 pipeline bringing gas into Germany. Flows through the pipeline have been reduced to just 20% of its capacity.

Analysts say Russia is destroying gas stocks

Vast amounts of gas being burned

"Exact flaring volume levels are hard to quantify but are believed to be at levels of around 4.34 million cubic meters per day," the consultancy said, adding that the figure "equates to 1.6 billion cubic meters on an annualized basis."

Burning off some gas or oil — known as flaring — is a common practice, but the level being recorded is unusually high.

It was first reported in Finland earlier in the month. Gazprom, the Russian energy giant, may have been burning off €1,000-worth ($998.70) of gas per hour for the past two months, according to Esa Vakkilainen, a professor at LUT University.

A satellite image from Copernicus Sentinel appears to show a gas flare in Portovaya, Russia. The plant is located near Russia’s border with Finland, northwest of St Petersburg.
Gas flaring is a common practice for a variety of reasons, including if supplies cannot be sold or utilizedImage: Copernicus Sentinel/Sentinel Hub/Pierre Markuse

Environmental catastrophe

Vakkilainen also warned that this is "a big environmental problem, especially for the North Pole area where this soot has definitely an effect on global warming."

"The flaring is an environmental disaster with around 9,000 tons of CO2 being emitted daily," Rystad said.

Russia is the world's fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases and has set a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by  2060. But Gazprom has seen its gas output reduced by 13% since the invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent standoff with the West.

"Although the exact reasons for the burning are unknown, the volume, emissions and location of the flaring are a visible reminder of Russia's dominance over Europe's energy markets," Rystad's market analyst chief Sindre Knutsson told Spanish news agency EFE.

"The flaring flame is highly visible, perhaps indicating that gas is ready and waiting to flow to Europe if friendly political relations resume," the consultancy said.

ab/fb (Reuters, EFE)