Flaring and Venting
Natural gas flaring and venting involves the controlled release of gases including carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. These releases are sometimes necessary as part of safe operations. However, releases are strictly regulated in Canada and Canada’s natural gas and oil industry is a global leader in minimizing the use of flaring and venting.
Flaring is the controlled burning of fuel or waste gas that takes place during production and processing. Fuel or waste gas is ignited at the top of a flare stack, causing the characteristic flame associated with flaring. Some odours may be associated with flaring.
Venting is a controlled release of unburned gases into the atmosphere, such as natural gas or other hydrocarbon vapours, water vapour, or other gases. Venting may occur during several processes including well completion and during well maintenance. Odours may be associated with venting.
Flaring and venting can occur during operations such as:
- Well completion or well servicing
- Natural gas well testing to estimate reserves and determine productivity
- Routine oil or bitumen production (solution gas)
- Planned non-routine depressuring of processing equipment and pipelines for maintenance
- Unplanned non-routine depressuring of process equipment and pipelines due to process upsets or emergencies
- Waste management.
Flaring and Venting Reduction
The industry is continually working to reduce flaring. Natural gas flaring in Alberta was reduced by 80% from 1996 to 2010, reducing GHG emissions by more than eight million tonnes. In 2016, B.C. eliminated routine flaring. Since 2006, industry in B.C. has achieved a 23% reduction in annual flare volumes according to the British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission (BCOGC).
Flaring and Venting Regulations
Regulatory requirements for flaring and venting have two purposes: protect the environment and the public, and conserve resources.
Before undertaking activity related to flaring and venting, companies consider:
- Are there residents in the area?
- Are there local residents directly affected with environmental or health concerns?
- Are there economic alternatives to burning the gases (flaring)?
- Are the environmental impacts of eliminating or reducing flaring greater than the environmental benefits?
Companies must also:
- Notify the Alberta Energy Regulator and the public before planning any flaring or venting operations.
- Manage waste gases and regularly report how much is being flared and vented.
- Respond to questions or concerns raised by the public regarding their flaring or venting.
- Provide a detailed breakdown of the costs associated with their flaring and venting.
The BCOGC has established Flaring and Venting Reduction Guidelines that provide regulatory requirements for flaring, venting and incinerating at any well site or facility.
In Alberta, the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) regulates flaring, venting and incinerating at oil and natural gas operations with Directive 60. The AER directives ensure that public safety concerns and environmental impacts are addressed before beginning to flare, incinerate, or vent.
Directive S-10 in Saskatchewan enforces regulations for reducing flaring, incinerating, or venting from oil and natural gas operations.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board established gas flaring regulations in 2007.