Flames lit up the sky in many oil and gas producing areas. Oil and gas companies claim the flares burned 98 percent of the fugitive gas.But observations of three U.S. oil and gas fields suggest that the efficiency is only about 91%the scientists reported on Sept. 30 science. Making up the difference equates to taking nearly 3 million cars off the road.
The escaping natural gas is mainly methane. This greenhouse gas remains in the atmosphere for only 9 to 10 years, but its warming potential is 80 times that of carbon dioxide. So oil and gas companies ignite flares — burning methane to produce less potent carbon dioxide and water. The industry and the U.S. government consider the torches to be 98 percent efficient.But previous research has shown This may be overly optimisticsaid Genevieve Plant, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (Serial Number: 4/22/20).
Plant and her colleagues sent planes to sample air from more than 300 flares in North Dakota’s Bakken Basin and Texas’ Permian and Eagle Ford Basins, which account for more than 80 percent of the country’s flares. Samples showed five times more unburned methane than previously estimated.
Dan Cusworth, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Arizona in Tucson who was not involved in the study, said a drop in efficiency from 98 percent to 91 percent may seem small, but the impact is large. “Any percentage that is in the methane phase rather than CO2 Stages are much more of a problem. “
Half of the difference is due to no burning flares. “We expected that flares might show a range of efficiencies, but we didn’t expect to see so many unlit flares,” Plante said. 3% to 5% flare doesn’t work at all. If these fires were ignited and 98 percent efficient, the result could remove the equivalent of about 13 million tons of carbon from the atmosphere. Light them up.