396157 Central Africa Energy: Utilizing NASA Earth Observations to Explore Flared Gas As an Energy Source Alternative to Biomass in Central Africa

Monday, November 17, 2014
Galleria Exhibit Hall (Hilton Atlanta)
Christopher Castillo and Kenny Nguyen, DEVELOP National Program, NASA, Mobile, AL

Much of Central Africa’s economy is centered on oil production.  Oil deposits lie below vast amounts of compressed natural gas. The latter is often flared off during oil extraction due to a lack of the infrastructure needed to utilize it for productive energy generation.  Though gas flaring is discouraged by many due to its contributions to greenhouse emissions, it represents a waste process and is rarely tracked or recorded in this region. In contrast to this energy waste, roughly 80% of Africa’s population lacks access to electricity and in turn uses biomass such as wood for heat and light.  In addition to the dangers incurred from collecting and using biomass, the practice commonly leads to ecological change through the acquisition of wood from forests surrounding urban areas.

The objective of this project was to gain insight on domestic energy usage in Central Africa, specifically Angola, Gabon, and the Republic of Congo. This was done through an analysis of deforestation, an estimation of gas flared, and a suitability study for the infrastructure needed to realize the natural gas resources. The energy from potential natural gas production was compared to the energy equivalent of the biomass being harvested. A site suitability study for natural gas pipeline routes from flare sites to populous locations was conducted to assess the feasibility of utilizing natural gas for domestic energy needs. Analyses and results were shared with project partners, as well as this project’s open source approach to assessing the energy sector. Ultimately, Africa’s growth demands energy for its people, and natural gas is already being produced by the flourishing petroleum industry in numerous African countries. By utilizing this gas, Africa could reduce flaring, recuperate the financial and environmental loss that flaring accounts for, and unlock a plentiful domestic energy source for its people.


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