Natural gas flaring is the process of burning off of excess gasses in a smokestack at an oil refinery or other type of chemical plant. If you have ever seen a smokestack belching flames and smoke into the sky, you have witnessed gas flaring.
These types of facilities practice natural gas flaring to relieve pressure from the equipment by re-routing and burning off excess natural gas. A pressure control valve detects when pressure is too high, and a mix of natural gases and some liquids is burned out of the stacks.
Gas flaring does contribute to CO2 emissions, but the effect has dramatically decreased in recent years. The Kyoto Protocol offers carbon bonuses for companies who process the excess gas (specifically methane) from reaching the atmosphere.
Environmentally, gas flaring’s greatest impact is that it wastes valuable natural gas. The World Bank estimates that the amount of gas flared annually is equal to 25% of the United States’ total annual gas consumption.
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