Unlit and Inefficient: Flares Burn Off Less Methane Than Previously Believed | AIChE

Unlit and Inefficient: Flares Burn Off Less Methane Than Previously Believed


Gas flares in the U.S.’s biggest oil-producing basins burn less methane than previously estimated.

New direct measurements of emissions from more than 300 flares reveal that their efficiency at destroying methane, a potent greenhouse gas, ranges between 87% and 94%, falling short of the 98% expected from laboratory testing.

“If we use our results at a national scale, we estimate flaring emissions total 0.6 teragrams [600,000 m.t.] of methane a year,” says Genevieve Plant, an electrical engineer and assistant research scientist at the Univ. of Michigan. “That’s around 4% to 10% of the total methane budget for the oil and gas sector in the U.S.”

Boosting the flaring efficiency to where it should be at 98% would be the emissions-reduction equivalent of removing 2.9 million cars from the road each year, the authors reported in the journal Science.

Estimates of gases released from flares can be gleaned from satellite measurements, but determining the efficiency of flares in the field requires direct measurements. Those measurements are difficult because flares are spread out over large production areas, Plant...

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