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Shale gas flaring cause of re-rise in pollution – report

Environmentalists will given more ammunition to rally against the shale gas industry after the arrival of a report which will say shale gas exploration causes an increase in pollution from waste gases

The World Bank estimates that the flaring of gas adds some 360 million metric tons of CO2 in annual emissions

The shale energy boom is fuelling a rise in the burning of waste gas after years of decline, the World Bank will say in a report due this month.

Global gas flaring increased almost 5 per cent in 2011, the first rise since 2008 and equivalent to the annual gas use of Denmark, according to preliminary data.

but a rise in shale gas exploration, mainly in North Dakota, has propelling the US into the top 10 gas flaring countries along with Russia, Nigeria and Iraq.

Global gas flaring increased to around 140 billion cubic meters (bcm) in 2011, up from 134 bcm the previous year, the data shows.

Flaring is used to eliminate gas at mineral exploration sites, and is released via pressure relief valves to ease the strain on equipment.

"The challenge in North Dakota is that there is a lot of initial exploration and production going on, and often some flaring is necessary at that stage," the source at the World Bank's Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership (GGFR) told Reuters.

"We are hopeful that when the full data is released, both policymakers and companies in North Dakota will pay more attention to this issue and take the necessary steps to minimise flaring."

The data will draw further criticism to the industry, which some activists already condemn on environmental grounds.

"Environmental regulations to stop flaring are taking a real kick in the teeth because the financial crisis has put the emphasis on increasing competitiveness, while anything that is seen as diminishing competitiveness is not getting any political traction," Charlie Kronick, senior climate campaigner at Greenpeace, said.

Britain's annual gas consumption is just under 100 bcm, and Norway's yearly production just above that - which makes the 140 bcm flared globally over a third more than Europe's top consumer and producer, respectively.

In current market terms, 140 bcm of gas would be worth over USD 100 billion in barrels of oil equivalent.

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