Flare gas recovery systems are becoming increasingly important for industrial facilities as a means to reduce environmental pollution and make better use of valuable resources. Flaring, the controlled burning of gases, is a common practice at oil and gas facilities but it results in the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. By recovering previously flared gases through modern recovery systems, companies can lower their emissions footprint and generate revenue from captured gases.
What is Flare Gas?
Flare gas consists primarily of hydrocarbon gases like methane that are byproducts of oil and natural gas production processes. These associated gases are separated from the crude oil or natural gas during extraction, processing, storage and transportation operations. Previously, facilities would simply burn off excess flare gas through open flare stacks as it was seen as an unavoidable byproduct. However, modern flare gas recovery systems allow the captured of these gases for productive use or reinjection.
How Flare Gas Recovery Systems Work
Flare gas recovery systems feature sophisticated equipment to efficiently capture flare gases from the flare header without disrupting plant operations. They work by routing flare gas to a recovery compressor which pressurizes the gas for further treatment or use. The compressed gas is then dehydrated to remove any moisture and treated to remove hydrogen sulfide and other contaminants that could damage downstream facilities.
After processing, the cleaned flare gas can be put to different beneficial end uses. Common options include reinjecting it into the production system, using it as supplemental fuel for power generation, or processing it for sale as pipeline quality natural gas. Some systems also allow for selective recovery where only certain higher-value gas components like propane, butane and condensates are captured for monetization while the remainder is still flared.
Advantages of Recovering Flare Gas
The key advantage of flare gas recovery is that it transforms an emission into a saleable product or usable fuel. By capturing gases that would otherwise combust unproductively, facilities gain both environmental and economic benefits. Some of the top advantages of Flare Gas Recovery Systems include:
– Reduced greenhouse gas emissions – Capturing flare gas means fewer volumes of methane and CO2 released into the atmosphere, lowering an operation’s carbon footprint.
– Compliance with emission regulations – Regulators are increasingly restricting flaring activities. Recovery systems help facilities meet tightening restrictions.
– Generation of new revenue streams – The high-value hydrocarbon components in recovered gas can be processed and sold, turning a waste product into an income source.
– Reliable fuel source – When reinjected or used on-site for power, recovered gas enhances energy security and can reduce fuel procurement costs.
– Improved public image – Flare elimination and reduction of air pollutants leads to better community and stakeholder relations for facilities.
Challenges in Flare Gas Recovery
While the benefits of recovery are substantial, successful implementation also faces certain challenges:
– High upfront capital costs – Flare gas capture and processing equipment like separators, compressors and treating units represents a major investment that demands thorough planning and payback analysis.
– System reliability – Downtime in flare header connections or recovery equipment can lead to unplanned flaring and lost production. Redundancy is important.
– Complex system integration – Facilities must carefully engineer the recovery layout and tie-ins to minimize disruption to plant operations during planned and unplanned flaring events.
– Waste handling and disposal – Produced water and contaminants removed during processing require environmentally-sound handling and treatment to disposal.
– Variable gas composition – Flare streams can fluctuate, requiring flexible, modular systems that can adjust to changing flow conditions and contaminant loads over time.
As the natural gas industry moves towards greater sustainability and the global economy transitions away from higher carbon energy sources, flare gas recovery will become increasingly important. While implementation presents engineering and economic challenges, modern recovery systems can offer an attractive value proposition through reduced emissions and new revenue potential. As technology advances, the feasibility of cost-effective flare elimination continues to grow, benefitting both industry and the environment.
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it