Exploration for oil and gas is a hazardous business, as any number of events and incidents, including most recently the Deepwater Horizon incident of 2010, attest to. While the global dependence on fossil fuels continues, so the industry becomes more and more focussed on finding new ways to find and extract oil and gas.
Fluenta has worked with the oil and gas industry since 1985. We build a complex product that has a simple role – measuring the volume of gas that is flared from oil and gas platforms.
The flame at the top of an oil rig is an iconic image for the oil and gas industry. Yet few people know why the flare is there and its purpose. This blog focuses on why gas needs to be flared at all and how this is a critical part of ensuring safety within the oil and gas industry.
The extraction of highly flammable liquids and gases from the earth is obviously a precise and potentially dangerous operation. It involves precise technology combined with experience and expertise developed over decades. Despite well publicised incidents that occasionally take place, the industry is safe and consistently getting safer. In fact the publicity that comes with oil and gas explosions demonstrates how rare these incidents are.
Reasons for gas flaring
Burning excess gas by flare is a critical part of that safety regime. Flare stacks are often used for burning off flammable gas released by pressure relief valves during unplanned over-pressuring of plant equipment. This often takes place during start-ups and shutdowns in production when the volume of gas being extracted can be uncertain. In this respect flare stacks provide a critical means by which to ensure safety – the alternative to allowing the gas to escape would be a significant build-up of pressure and the risk of explosion.
It is not always the case that gas is flared for safety reasons. When crude oil is extracted and produced from onshore or offshore oil wells, raw natural gas also comes to the surface. In areas of the world lacking pipelines and other gas transportation infrastructure, this gas is commonly flared.
Alternatives to flaring
One alternative to flaring gas would be to allow the gas to escape into the environment. This is not the preferable option for two reasons. The first is environmental: burning gas is far more environmentally friendly than allowing gas to escape. The second is clearly safety. When large volumes of gas escape the wind can blow these in unusual directions and this is potentially threatening to safety.
Measuring volumes of gas
Fluenta’s role in the flaring of gas is to accurately measure the volume of gas that is flared. This is important for a number of reasons. First, in many regions of the world the flaring of gas is subject to taxation and accurate measurement ensures that the correct taxation is being paid. The second reason is to provide intelligence to the industry on the volume of gas flared. Natural gas is a limited and valuable resource – ideally no gas would ever be lost. However the reality is different as outlined above. Accurate measurement of gas flaring means the industry can plan better ways to reduce this loss and create best practice in the future.
Fluenta is proud of the role it plays in this important industry. Our commitment to accurate measurement is why our company exists as our company statement “accurate information for better decisions” attests.
If you would like more information, or are considering purchasing one of our meters, please get in touch by visiting our contact page.