Flaring is the controlled and intentional burning of natural gas as part of production and processing. Venting is the word used to describe natural gas that is released to the atmosphere, as a part of regular operations.
Flaring is necessary to ensure the safe production of oil and gas and is highly regulated across Canada. Flaring and venting release greenhouse gases, sulphur dioxide (SO2) and methane into the atmosphere.
To manage flaring at an operational level, individual companies determine the economics of flaring gas at a site, as compared to creating the infrastructure to collect and ship the gas to market. Other operational procedures to manage flaring include re-injecting the gas back into the oil reservoir to raise the pressure in the reservoir so the oil flows to the well more easily, leading to greater oil recovery.
In Alberta, environmental regulations cut the amount of natural gas flared by 80 per cent from 1996 to 2010, reducing GHG emissions by more than eight million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). In British Columbia, regulations are on track to eliminate routine flaring by 2016. The government of Saskatchewan is developing regulations and guidelines that will reduce the level of flaring and venting in that province.