Flare gas: health and safety

A report from the Dakota Resource Council has found that excessive methane flaring has been affecting the health of local residents.

Increased levels have been blamed for causing or aggravating respiratory issues such as asthma. With public concern growing, some residents are even leaving the Bakken region.

A familiar culprit

Lisa Deville, President of Fort Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights, investigated several local oil wells for the report. With an infrared camera, she identified flares that were otherwise invisible to the naked eye, which could be affecting the health of residents.

Concern about the impacts of gas flaring is not new to the area, with the Dakota Resource Council advocating more research and monitoring into the unknown environmental effects since 2014. However, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is looking to move forward with reducing regulations in the area. By removing restrictions on methane-flaring at oil and gas sites the industry would benefit economically, but the environmental and health risks caused by increased methane-flaring continue to be a concern.

The issue of necessity

There are legitimate reasons to allow limited use of flaring, including safety testing and the safe disposal of potentially harmful gases. However, continued flaring has negative consequences. Flaring releases methane which has a substantial impact on the health and land of those who live nearby. Exposure to methane can cause headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, respiratory problems or even loss of coordination.

Currently there are 23 million Americans who suffer from Asthma, including an estimated 6.1 million children. Every year, increased methane pollution causes 750,000 asthma attacks in children, more than 500,000 days of school missed and nearly 2,000 asthma-related emergency room visits. Even healthy people who do not suffer from asthma or other respiratory problems can be affected by methane pollution, including suffering from reduced lung function, coughing, wheezing and inflammation.

A need for measurement

Gas flaring may be used for the safe disposal of excess natural gas, however routine flaring should be abolished to lessen the environmental and public health impact. Accurate measurement of gas flaring can help oil and gas operators to control the amount of gas being regularly flared, while helping report on potential issues. However, gas flow measurement is one of the most challenging types of measurement.

Fluenta’s flare gas meter uses ultrasonic technology to accurately measure gas flow. By knowing how much natural gas is being flared, oil and gas operators can test new methods to reduce routine flaring and control methane emissions.

August 21, 2017 | News

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