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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Flare stack at the Shell Haven refinery in England.

A gas flare, alternatively known as a flare stack, is a gas combustion device used in
industrial plants such as petroleum refineries, chemical plants, natural gas processing plants
as well as at oil or gas production sites having oil wells, gas wells, offshore oil and gas rigs
and landfills.

North Dakota Flaring of Gas
In industrial plants, flare stacks are primarily used for burning off flammable gas released by
pressure relief valves during unplanned over-pressuring of plant equipment.
plant or partial plant startups and shutdowns, flare stacks are also often used for the planned
combustion of gases over relatively short periods.
A great deal of gas flaring at many oil and gas production sites has nothing to do with
protection against the dangers of over-pressuring industrial plant equipment. When petroleum
crude oil is extracted and produced from onshore or offshore oil wells, raw natural gas
associated with the oil is produced to the surface as well. Especially in areas of the world
lacking pipelines and other gas transportation infrastructure, vast amounts of such associated
gas are commonly flared as waste or unusable gas. The flaring of associated gas may occur at
the top of a vertical flare stack (as in the adjacent photo) or it may occur in a ground-level
flare in an earthen pit.

1 Overall flare system in industrial plants
2 Impacts of waste flaring associated gas from oil drilling sites and other facilities
3 See also
4 References
5 External links
6 Media
Overall flare system in industrial plants

Schematic flow diagram of an overall vertical, elevated flare stack system in an industrial
Whenever industrial plant equipment items are over-pressured, the pressure relief valves
provided as essential safety devices on the equipment automatically release gases and
sometimes liquids as well. Those pressure relief valves are required by industrial design
codes and standards as well as by law.
The released gases and liquids are routed through large piping systems called flare headers to
a vertical elevated flare. The released gases are burned as they exit the flare stacks. The size
and brightness of the resulting flame depends upon the flammable material's flow rate in
terms of joules per hour (or btu per hour).

Most industrial plant flares have a vapor-liquid separator (also known as a knockout drum)
upstream of the flare to remove any large amounts of liquid that may accompany the relieved
Steam is very often injected into the flame to reduce the formation of black smoke. When too
much steam is added to the flame, a condition known as "over steaming" can occur resulting
in reduced combustion efficiency and higher emissions. In order to keep the flare system
functional, a small amount of gas is continuously burned, like a pilot light, so that the system
is always ready for its primary purpose as an over-pressure safety system.
The adjacent flow diagram depicts the typical components of an overall industrial flare stack

A knockout drum to remove any oil and/or water from the relieved gases.
A water seal drum to prevent any flashback of the flame from the top of the flare
An alternative gas recovery system for use during partial plant startups and/or
shutdowns as well as other times when required. The recovered gas is routed into the
fuel gas system of the overall industrial plant.
A steam injection system to provide an external momentum force used for efficient
mixing of air with the relieved gas, which promotes smokeless burning.
A pilot flame (with its ignition system) that burns all the time so that it is available to
ignite relieved gases whenever needed.

The flare stack, including a flashback prevention section at the upper part of the flare
Impacts of waste flaring associated gas from oil drilling
sites and other facilities

Flaring of associated gas from an oil well site in Nigeria.

Flaring gases from an oil platform in the North Sea.
Flaring is a contributor to the worldwide anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide.
Improperly operated flares may emit methane and other volatile organic compounds as well
as sulfur dioxide and other sulfur compounds, which are known to exacerbate asthma and
other respiratory problems. Other emissions from improperly operated flares may include,
aromatic hydrocarbons (benzene, toluene, xylenes) and benzapyrene, which are known to be
Flaring can impact wildlife by attracting birds and insects to the flame. Approximately 7,500
migrating songbirds were attracted to and killed by the flare at the liquefied natural gas
terminal in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada on September 13, 2013.
Similar incidents
have occurred at flares on offshore oil and gas installations.
Moths are known to be
attracted to lights. A brochure published by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological
Diversity describing the Global Taxonomy Initiative describes a situation where "a
taxonomist working in a tropical forest noticed that a gas flare at an oil refinery was
attracting and killing hundreds of these [hawk or sphinx] moths. Over the course of the
months and years that the refinery was running a vast number of moths must have been
killed, suggesting that plants could not be pollinated over a large area of forest".

As of the end of 2011, 150 10
cubic meters (5.3 10
cubic feet) of associated gas are
flared annually. That is equivalent to about 25 per cent of the annual natural gas consumption
in the United States or about 30 per cent of the annual gas consumption in the European
If it were to reach market, this quantity of gas (at a nominal value of $5.62 per
1000 cubic feet) would be worth $29.8 billion USD.

Also as of the end of 2011, 10 countries accounted for 72 per cent of the flaring, and twenty
for 86 per cent. The top ten leading contributors to world gas flaring at the end of 2011, were
(in declining order): Russia (27%), Nigeria (11%), Iran (8%), Iraq (7%), USA (5%), Algeria
(4%), Kazakhstan (3%), Angola (3%), Saudi Arabia (3%) and Venezuela (3%).

That amount of flaring and burning of associated gas from oil drilling sites is a significant
source of carbon dioxide (CO
) emissions. Some 400 10
tons of carbon dioxide are
emitted annually in this way and it amounts to about 1.2 per cent of the worldwide emissions
of carbon dioxide. That may seem to be insignificant, but in perspective it is more than half
of the Certified Emissions Reductions (a type of carbon credits) that have been issued under
the rules and mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol as of June 2011.

Satellite data show that from 2005 to 2010, global gas flaring decreased by about 20%. The
most significant reductions in terms of volume were made in Russia and Nigeria.