In the oil-rich province of Khuzestan, gas flaring is responsible for more than 60% of air pollution. More than 7.5 million cubic meters of sour gas – a form of natural gas – is burned in Khuzestan oil fields each day, significantly contributing to the province’s low air quality.
The usual suspect
Khuzestan, one of Iran’s 31 provinces, has long been affected by dust storms which contribute to the area’s low air quality. Yet despite the recent smoothening of dust particles, the Air Quality Index has not seen any improvement. Flaring near residential areas is instead the main cause of low air quality.
At an estimated 200,000 million kilowatt-hours of energy each year, Iran’s power consumption is three times higher than the global average. To meet its energy needs, the country produces 4 million barrels of crude oil a day, leading to the flaring of 39 million cubic meters of gas across the country. As its population continues to increase, the country’s reliance on fossil fuels will follow suit.
The health impact
In countries where there is a high reliance on natural resources, continuous air pollution can be crippling economically, ecologically, environmentally and health-wise. Ahvas, Khuzestan’s capital is “reeling from air pollution caused by gas flaring”. According to the International Journal of Scientific Research and Innovative Technology, more than 4.6 million people die every year because of air pollution, while 1.1 billion people are exposed to the unhealthy air.
Air pollution has been associated with a wide range of health effects, respiratory, pulmonary and cardiovascular problems, allergies and even death. When children inhale polluted air, it enters into the lungs and can become trapped before dissolving into the blood stream.
In the short-term, Iran has aimed to reduce its energy consumption index by half, increasing efficiency and reducing energy use. To curb the effects of pollution on residents, officials in Khuzestan have proposed the construction of a new petrochemical industrial city. The facility would be built away from residential areas to remove the source of air pollution. However, to truly reduce its effects, gas flaring must be addressed.
There is a growing global concern that flaring has become the default position for companies that lack an economically viable method to store natural gas. This process is known as routine flaring.
Ultrasonic flare gas meters can be used to monitor gas flaring. Gas measurement allows operators to understand how much gas they are flaring, so they are better positioned to isolate processes that require less flaring. Combined with Iran’s plan to reduce its demand on energy providers, air quality in Khuzestan can be improved.