Even though open flaring is
permitted, companies can use 'greener' options to work around
flaring (more below). In most cases, these options create additional
profits for the production company, but usually require a gas
pipeline to be in place first.
A large number of pollutants are released into the air during the
flaring process, making it an undesirable practice. Included in
airborne pollutants are the chemicals used to frac the
well, as well as any of 5-dozen other pollutants including the
following: acetalhyde, acrolein, benzene, ethyl benzene,
formaldehyde, hexane, naphthalene, propylene, toluene, and xylenes.
Flare near Pittsburgh Mills Mall
Drilling companies can use "green completions" to improve air
quality and provide themselves with extra revenue. These are
mentioned in a January 2009 report by Dr. Armendariz of SMU seen
Four flares at a Range Resources site in SW Pa.
Goettel Unit near Avella, Pa.
"Green Completions" or
"The Green Flowback Process"
reports of the effectiveness of green completions in the
U.S. are available, including one by the U.S. EPA which
estimated 70% capture of formerly released gases with
green completions. If green completion procedures can
capture 61% to 98% of the gases formerly released during
well completions, the process would be a more
environmentally friendly alternative to flaring of the
gases, since flaring destroys a valuable commodity and
prevents its beneficial use. Green completions would
also certainly be more beneficial than venting of the
gases, since this can release very large quantities of
methane and VOCs to the atmosphere. Another factor in
favor of capturing instead of flaring is that flaring
can produce carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas), carbon
monoxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and
particulate matter (soot) emissions."
Full Report (PDF)
Below are photos and videos of gas flares
from Marcellus Shale gas wells