Flaring for safety
Resembling a candle flame atop a tall chimney, flares are a common sight at major refineries and chemical plants. We explain how we manage such flares and strive to run our plants safely.
What Happens in a Refinery or Chemical Plant
During regular operations, materials from the refining process are collected and sent to the oil recovery tanks for further processing. There, they are converted into products such as petrol and jet fuel.
For chemical plants, by-products from the chemical process are collected and then further processed. They are then converted into products such as polyethylene or polypropylene (plastics) for industrial and manufacturing use.
How flaring works?
Flaring is a major safety device and a normal and vital part of keeping the plant safe during unplanned operational disruptions. It can occur during a start-up and shutdown of a plant or even in the event of a temporary power loss. Flaring happens when gases need to be released to prevent them from accumulating within the equipment and creating a potential danger. The flare is designed to ensure maximum combustion in an environmentally sustainable manner while minimising the release of direct hydrocarbon emissions into the air.
The use of flaring for the safe disposal of hydrocarbons that cannot be processed is widely recognised in the industry as the preferred approach to adopt for safe operations.
Occasionally, a low rumbling sound similar to far-off thunder may be heard as well. This occurs as a result of the mixing of vapours, air and steam during the flaring process.
What is the smoke?
Sometimes the flaring is accompanied by a white cloud at the top of a flare stack. This is steam which is injected into the stack to help in clean combustion. Occasionally, you may also see dark smoke which occurs when an insufficient amount of steam is available to help burn the hydrocarbons sent to the flare. This may happen when there is a sudden release of hydrocarbons to the system and there is a slight delay in response before sufficient steam can be supplied to the burning process.
The flare system is monitored so that steam flowing to the flares can be adjusted as needed.
Managing Flaring Safely
Shell is committed to operate in an environmentally and socially responsible manner. We take flaring seriously and abide by regulatory limits set by the National Environment Agency on flaring. Flaring is actively managed and our sites strive for zero routine flaring. This way, flaring is kept to those occasions when it is needed as a safety measure.
For more information about flaring, please contact us at +65 6384 8000 (Mon-Fri, 8am-5pm, except public holidays) or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More in Sustainability
Our vision is to continue playing a long-term, meaningful role in the community in line with our ambition to be a net-zero emissions energy company by 2050 or sooner, in step with society and with customers.
We began reporting voluntarily on our environmental performance with the first Shell Report that covered 1997. We do it to be transparent, and to show how we are contributing to sustainable development.
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