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What Are the Causes of Flare Loss?

    Equipment Failure

    • Leaking equipment, such as pressure valves, cause flare loss. Replacement of the defective part solves this problem. Another example of equipment failure involves a faulty gate valve that allows VOCs to escape. All valves require seals that are subject to failure. A program designed to monitor and inspect valves for leaks around seals alleviates flare loss.

    Intentional Discharge

    • The practice of releasing flares is part of standard engineering practice in the oil industry. The practice allows for gases to be easily dissipated and destroyed. The quick release avoids fires, explosions and the resulting injuries and damages. It is a fast and safe way to get rid of excess VOCs. The problem, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, is the misuse of this routine procedure.


    • Gases under pressure can build up and need to be released. Such emergency action is another cause of flare loss and is vital for safety and proper operation of equipment. Refineries like those in the Houston Texas area use pilot lights at the top of each stack to ignite and release the gases. The purpose is to burn the gas off to prevent it from entering the atmosphere. A study released in 2011 indicates that the visible flame is the best way to burn off the overwhelming majority of the gases.

    Regulatory Avoidance

    • According to the EPA, some flare loss involves misuse of the procedure to avoid pollution regulations. Flare loss needs to be limited to true emergencies or routine safety use. The cost of flaring is too high and the damage to the environment too great for any other use, according to a study by GE Energy and released in 2011.

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