methane flaring from oil fossil fuel facility climate change

BP failing to report massive emissions from Iraq operations, Greenpeace alleges

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A Greenpeace investigation has found that BP and other major oil and gas companies are banking major profits from their operations in Iraq while not declaring “huge levels of emissions” from those fields.

Unearthed, which is the environmental charity’s investigatory arm, found that BP has failed to report massive flaring emissions from one of its projects in Iraq – equivalent to the annual emissions of over 970,000 petrol cars.

BP jointly owns the Rumaila operating company but Unearthed said the firm denies responsibility for its emissions.

Gas is released during oil production and is typically captured for use in power generation or reinjected to force more oil out of the ground. But in some places, a lack of infrastructure means it has nowhere to go and is set alight or vented into the atmosphere instead.

In impoverished Iraq the vast majority of gas produced during oil production is flared, which exacerbates climate change.

According to Unearthed, big oil companies “routinely” underreport their emissions by omitting non-operated joint ventures from official climate impact reports.

It identified that flaring emissions are totally unreported in the Rumaila and Zubair fields in Iraq, where BP and Eni hold stakes and make millions of dollars each year.

Based on its ownership of the operating company, BP’s share of flaring for the Rumaila field was estimated to be equivalent to 4.52 million tonnes of CO2 in 2021 amounting to double the UK oil industry’s total flaring emissions for that year.

UK flaring emissions for 2021 were 2.9 million tonnes CO2e, according to Unearthed’s analysis of World Bank data.

If Rumaila flaring were included in BP’s official reports, its flaring figure for 2021 would be double, the investigation found.

Ahmed El Droubi, regional campaigns manager at Greenpeace Middle East & North Africa, said: “Not only is BP brazenly wrecking the climate through these polluting fossil fuel projects, it’s also forcing communities in Iraq to pay a devastating price.

“Meanwhile, rich Western shareholders further line their pockets with BP’s obscene profits, leaving local communities with few so-called economic benefits. It’s time the UK government held these dirty polluters to account through significantly ramping up taxes on their enormous windfalls.

“As well as supporting UK households struggling with their energy bills, these funds should go directly towards countries in the Global South to deal with climate impacts and assist the transition to a renewable future. This is part of the Global North’s historic responsibility for causing the climate emergency from which we are all now suffering.”  

Rosie Rogers, head of Greenpeace UK’s climate team, said: “If BP were hiding emissions on this scale and trashing the local environment in this way in the UK, they’d face public outcry.

“They wouldn’t get away with it just because they don’t operate the oil field. What’s worse, BP is making no effort to get its pollution under control in Iraq despite the serious impact on people living there and the climate.

“The oil giant is trying to appear ‘woke’ in the West while remaining dirty in the Global South – but this needs to be called out for what it is. It’s racism woven into corporate behaviour. Shareholders and voters must not stand for it a second longer.”

BP had a 46.7 per cent stake in the Rumaila field, about 30 miles from Basra, as of June 2022.

It has since been spun off into the Basra Energy Company, which is jointly run by BP and PetroChina with input from an Iraqi firm.

The field is one of the largest in the world and produces 1.45 million barrels of oil a day. It generated $358m in post-tax profit for BP in 2020, according to the most recent company filings.

A report from last week showed that the North Sea oil and gas industry is ‘on track’ to meet its emission reduction targets.

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