Flaring Maps and Data
SkyTruth’s flaring maps show satellite detections of natural gas flaring across the entire planet.
Flaring is the act of burning off excess natural gas from oil wells when it can’t economically be stored and sent elsewhere. Flaring is also used to burn gases that would otherwise present a safety problem. Flaring from oil wells is a significant source of greenhouse gases. The World Bank estimated that 145 billion cubic meters of natural gas were flared in 2018; the equivalent of the entire gas consumption of Central and South America combined. Gas flaring also can negatively affect wildlife, public health, and even agriculture.
Methane and other gases are frequently flared from oil wells because it is cheaper to burn it off than to recover it – at least when the well is primarily producing oil. Flaring is also used while drilling new wells and at refineries to prevent an explosive buildup of gases. However, flaring wastes colossal amounts of energy. The New York Times reported in 2011 that in North Dakota alone, the amount of natural gas flared daily is enough to heat half a million homes, and every year puts as much carbon dioxide into the air as 384,000 cars.
This is a map of natural gas flaring across the entire planet. It is updated daily to add new infrared detections that are hot enough to be considered gas flares.
This map is not a direct representation of the Nightfire data. Instead, we cluster Nightfire flaring both spatially and temporally, creating an enhanced visualization of flaring at any location around the world.
There is more information about how SkyTruth processes and presents this data on the map in the FAQ below.
Creation of annual flaring volume data was a project jointly undertaken from 2012-2015 by both the NOAA Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) Proving Ground Program and the World Bank Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership (GGFR). The data continues to be maintained by the Earth Observation Group.
SkyTruth adds value to EOG’s data by allowing filtering, viewing and downloading of the data by country, state, county, U.S. federal lands, Canadian provinces, or for any area drawn directly on the map. Statistics are then available for these smaller areas.
EOG’s data can be downloaded by clicking the “Data files download” link at the bottom of this page. You can also download data once you’ve identified a smaller area (as described in the above paragraph). First click on a selection to view statistics, then the “download” link shown just below the statistics and over the plot
A summary of monthly methane flaring activity can be viewed or downloaded from SkyTruth Alerts. The source of this layer is the VIIRS Nightfire data produced by the Earth Observation Group (EOG) at the Colorado School of Mines.
Where does the data come from?
The data for this map was originally made available by NOAA’s Earth Observation Group. As of 15 October 2019, the data is now freely-available from Earth Observation Group (EOG), Payne Inst. for Public Policy, Colorado School of Mines.
How does flaring volume get estimated?
The Earth Observation Group have authored the following papers for those interested in the VIIRS instrument and how the flare volume is calculated.
Elvidge, C. D., Zhizhin, M., Hsu, F-C., & Baugh, K. (2013). VIIRS Nightfire: Satellite Pyrometry at Night. Remote Sensing 5(9), 4423-4449.
Elvidge, C. D., Zhizhin, M., Baugh, K. E, Hsu, F-C., & Ghosh, T. (2015). Methods for Global Survey of Natural Gas flaring from Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite Data. Energies, 9(1), 1-15.
Elvidge, C. D., Bazilian, M. D., Zhizhin, M., Ghosh, T., Baugh, K., & Hsu, F-C (2018). The Potential Role of Natural Gas Flaring in Meeting Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Targets. Energy Strategy Reviews, 20, 156-162.
How does the map data get processed?
What are the applications/uses for this map?
Applications for this map include:
Verified on the ground by a team we sent out North Dakota’s Bakken Shale and further cross-referenced against aerial and satellite imagery of other flaring hotspots such as Russia, Africa, and the Middle East, this map is updated daily to show the frequency of infrared detections hot enough to be gas flares.
I’m not seeing a flaring detection I expected to see. Why not?
If you don’t see a flaring detection you expected to see, it may be because of the ways that we process and present the flaring data. Some flares don’t burn hot enough to be included in our dataset, they may not have been burning when the satellite passed overhead, the flare may not be frequent enough to make it past the 3 detection threshold, heavy clouds have obscured the flare from the sensor, etc.
Although anyone can go to Google Maps and find most buildings in the world, we can’t do the same for infrastructure at sea. SkyTruth and our partners at Global Fishing Watch were inspired by this problem and created a dataset that allows us to locate offshore infrastructure. By applying three criteria, intern Breanna Xiong identified structures that have a high, medium, or low likelihood of being related to oil and gas production. This can make monitoring for oil pollution and identifying sources more efficient, and support SkyTruth's project Cerulean.
Those tracking methane flaring will want to try the newest layer in SkyTruth Alerts: a summary of monthly flaring activity that can be based on your current map view or selected Areas of Interest. Learn how in this post.
Over the 162 years since the world’s first commercial oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania, a vast network of oil and gas wells, pipelines, pumping stations, storage tanks, refineries, and distribution lines has been built. And this network -- including the modern pieces -- is riddled with leaks. That’s a big problem, because methane in the air absorbs heat from the sun, warming up our atmosphere.