Flare Gas

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One hundred and fifty billion cubic meters of “waste” gas are flared every year throughout the world – enough gas to power the United States for 3 months. Even worse, the 390 million tons of carbon dioxide released while doing this is more than the reduction of CO2 emissions from many of the carbon offsetting projects of the Kyoto protocol. In summary, the flaring and venting of natural gas is wasting valuable resources and contributing to climate change.

Gas flaring, or the open burning or venting of waste gas from oil and gas production facilities, is one of the hottest environmental issues in Western Canada. In Alberta in particular, hostility to the practice from farmers and ranchers has prompted reactions ranging from protest to industrial sabotage. With approximately 5,200 gas flares in Alberta and 1,000 in Saskatchewan, and mounting evidence linking flaring to environmental and health problems, the flaring of gas has become a priority issue for oil and gas producers as well as governmental authorities.

Field gas is a composite gas that surfaces with oil well drilling activities. If the gases can be collected and scrubbed (cleaned and separated from each other and from impurities), then they become natural gas, propane, etc. If the gases can be transmitted economically to markets they then have significant economic value.

Many field gases are viewed as waste products with no economic value. The chemical mixture of field gases varies between sites. Raw field gases, however, are usually vented or burned in an open flare if it is not economic to collect, scrub, and transfer the gases to market. These flared gases produce over 25% carcinogenic emissions, and contribute heavily to global pollution and the “greenhouse gas effect.” There are currently over 1,500 sites in Saskatchewan, 5,200 sites in Alberta, and tens of thousands of sites worldwide, flaring gas in an environmentally harmful and wasteful way.