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Ars Technica - A glaring error in methane flaring


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Gas flaring at an oil refinery

Enlarge (credit: HHakim)

A common practice in the oil industry called flaring is believed to cut down on methane emissions by burning waste or excess gas in the process of extracting or processing oil. But flaring may not be as effective as once thought, according to new research published in the journal Science.

It’s a widely held belief that flaring is 98 percent effective at destroying methane emissions caused by oil and gas operations. However, according to Eric Kort, associate professor in the University of Michigan’s department of climate and space and one of the paper’s authors, this assumption has only rarely been tested.

Why burn a potentially useful fuel? “You might have a volume of natural gas, which is primarily methane, that you don’t have anything to do with. You don’t have the capacity to capture it and put it into a pipeline—it’s not economic, the pressure would exceed safety tolerances,” Kort told Ars.

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