Goodness me, no my loves, flaring natural gas that can’t be used helps to protect people and the environment.
When exploring for natural gas, and once the well has been drilled and fracked, it is necessary to flow the well to test the presence, quantity and quality of any gas that’s found.
This can take up to 30 days.
During this test, there may be too much gas produced too quickly to use on site, dears, but not enough for long enough to make it economic to get the gas to market.
And besides, the government licences that operators have are for exploration only – they expressly prohibit the ‘getting’ and sale of hydrocarbons that are found.
So, rather than simply vent this gas off to atmosphere, it is flared instead.
Uncontrolled venting of methane for 30 days at a time would be very bad for the environment, cherubs. Methane is a very powerful contributor to global warming, much stronger than carbon dioxide.
By flaring it at temperatures of above 800 degrees Celsius, the methane is destroyed with an efficacy of over 98% and converted to less harmful CO2 and water vapours, sweeties.
On the Fylde in Lancashire, Cuadrilla have announced plans to test up to 6 exploration wells in the next couple of years. They’ll each need to flare some gas but not all simultaneously, so the claim that the night sky will be illuminated with flares is somewhat disingenuous.
Likewise, in their case, their flare is enclosed to reduce visibility and muffle the noise. It’s certainly nothing like the representations people often use to depict the activity (the 10ft long naked jet flame).
What about in production though, Aunty?
Well now, my little flowerpots, in production the requirement for flaring is even more minimal.
If the aim is to extract gas from the ground and sell it for a profit, operators are not going to want to lose any of it now, are they my dears?
In production, flaring will be an occasional activity performed for safety reasons only. So, for instance, an operator may need to open a well to perform maintenance and will divert gas to a flare whilst doing so. But that’s all. It won’t be continuous.
When people refer to excessive flaring in the United States, particularly in the Bakken fields, what they don’t tell you is that operators there are looking mostly for shale oil but find gas deposits with it, cherubs. Because they’re set up for oil, they don’t have pipeline infrastructure in place to get the gas away. It’s very sad and terribly wasteful, and they’re legislating to force operators to invest in alternatives.
But it won’t be like that here, sweeties, where gas is what operators are looking for and we have a well developed gas grid they can access easily.
So, no my little munchkins, you really need not worry about flaring.
Until next time…