Flare Stacks and the Environment

flare stack burning If you have ever driven past an petroleum processing plant, or even a large landfill for that matter, and seen a stack with a rather large flame burning at the peak, you have witnessed a technique that protects the public and the environment from harmful gases. During the processing of petroleum products especially, large amounts of harmful hydrocarbons such as propane, ethylene and butadiene are released as byproducts and must be destroyed via ignition to produce carbon dioxide and water. These hydrocarbons have been shown to cause a plethora of health issues including asthma, heart problems and even cancer. These stacks allow for safe ignition of these gases with minimal smoke, radiation and noise.

In order to ensure that complete ignition is occurring without release of harmful gases, instrumentation such as the process mass spectrometer is regularly used to carefully and accurately determine which gases are being released into the air that we breathe. Some industries are even going a step further by collecting the generated carbon dioxide for other industrial uses thereby also reducing carbon emissions.

So, the next time you drive past an industrialized part of town and see these stacks burning off in the distance you can comment on their importance to our health and the health of the environment that we live in.

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