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Gas flare

 A gas flare or flare stack is an elevated vertical stack or chimney found on oil wells or oil rigs, and in refineries, chemical plants and landfills used for burning off unusable waste gas or flammable gas and liquids released by pressure relief valves during unplanned over-pressuring of plant equipment.[1][2][3] In landfills, the primary purpose of this device is to vent and/or burn waste gas which results from the decomposition of materials in the dump.

Recently, under the Kioto Treaty, some developing countries garbage collecting companies have received carbon bonus for installing burning chimneys for the methane gas produced at their landfills, preventing this way that methane reaches the atmosphere. After the burning, this gas is converted to heat, water and CO2, and according to the Third assessment report of the IPCC, as Methane is 25 times a more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2 the greenhouse effect is reduced in the same order.

On oil production rigs, in refineries and chemical plants, its primary purpose is to act as a safety device to protect vessels or pipes from over-pressuring due to unplanned upsets. This acts just like the spout on a tea kettle when it starts whistling as the water in it starts boiling. Whenever plant equipment items are over-pressured, the pressure relief valves on the equipment automatically releases gases (and sometimes liquids as well) which are routed through large piping runs called flare headers to the flare stacks. The released gases and/or liquids are burned as they exit the flare stacks. The size and brightness of the resulting flame depends upon how much flammable material was released. Steam can be injected into the flame to reduce the formation of black smoke. The injected steam does however make the burning of gas sound louder, which can cause complaints from nearby residents. Compared to the emission of black smoke, it can be seen as a valid trade off. In more advanced flare tip designs, if the steam used is too wet it can freeze just below the tip, disrupting operations and causing the formation of large icicles. 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 continuous gas source also helps diluted mixtures achieve complete combustion.

Some flares have been used to burn flammable "waste" gases or by-products that are not economical to retain. Over time, the industry is moving to flare-gas recovery systems to decrease waste and reduce emissions.[citation needed]

Flaring and venting of natural gas in oil wells is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. Its contribution to greenhouse gases has declined by three-quarters in absolute terms since a peak in the 1970s of approximately 110 million metric tons/year and now accounts for about 1/2 of one percent of all anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions.[4] The World Bank estimates that over 100 billion cubic meters of natural gas are flared or vented annually, an amount worth approximately 30.6 billion dollars, equivalent to the combined annual gas consumption of Germany and France, twice the annual gas consumption of Africa, three quarters of Russian gas exports, or enough to supply the entire world with gas for 20 days. This flaring is highly concentrated: 10 countries account for 75% of emissions, and twenty for 90%.[5] The largest flaring operations occur in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. The leading contributors to gas flaring are (in declining order): Nigeria, Russia, Iran, Algeria, Mexico, Venezuela, Indonesia, and the United States.[6] In spite of a ruling by the Federal High Court of Nigeria (that forbid flaring) in 2005, 43% of the of the gas retrieval was still being flared in 2006. It will be prohibited by law as of 2008.

Russia, signalling yet another step toward an eco-friendly economy, will stop the practice of gas flaring as stated by deputy prime minister Sergei Ivanov on Wednesday September 19, 2007.[7] This step was, at least in part, a response to a recent report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that concluded Russia's previous numbers may have been underestimated. The report, which used night time light pollution satellite imagery to estimate flaring, put the estimate for Russia at 50 billion cubic meters while the official numbers are 15 or 20 billion cubic meters. The number for Nigeria is 23 billion cubic meters. [8]

See also


  1. ^ John J McKetta, Editor (1985). Encyclopedia of Chemical Processing and Design. Marcel Dekker, 144. ISBN 0-8247-2491-7. 
  2. ^ Milton R. Beychok (2005). Fundamentals of Stack Gas Dispersion, Fourth edition, self-published. ISBN 0-9644588-0-2. See Chapter 11, Flare Stack Plume Rise.
  3. ^ A Proposed Comprehensive Model for Elevated Flare Flames and Plumes, David Shore, Flaregas Corporation, AIChE 40th Loss Prevention Symposium, April 2006.
  4. ^ Global, Regional, and National CO2 Emissions. In Trends: A Compendium of Data on Global Change, Marland, G., T.A. Boden, and R. J. Andres, 2005, Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
  5. ^ The World Bank, Global Gas Flaring Reduction"
  6. ^ The Climate Law Organization, Friends of the Earth International.
  7. ^
  8. ^ The Boston Globe: Russia top offender in gas-flare emissions
  • The Invensys website has an interesting article at Flare Header Overpressure Protective System
  • The "Fundamentals of Stack Gas Dispersion" website has 12 photographs of various gas flare types at Smoke Stacks and Flare Stacks
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Gas_flare". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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