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J Air Waste Manag Assoc. 2011 Feb;61(2):190-200.

An analysis of flaring and venting activity in the Alberta upstream oil and gas industry.

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  • 1Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.


Alberta, Canada, is an important global producer of petroleum resources. In association with this production, large amounts of gas (1.14 billion m3 in 2008) are flared or vented. Although the amount of flaring and venting has been measurably reduced since 2002, data from 2005 reveal sharp increases in venting, which have important implications in terms of resource conservation and greenhouse gas emissions (which exceeded 8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2008). With use of extensive monthly production data for 18,203 active batteries spanning the years 2002-2008 obtained in close cooperation with the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board, a detailed analysis has been completed to examine activity patterns of flaring and venting and reasons behind these trends in the Alberta upstream oil and gas industry. In any given year, approximately 6000 batteries reported flaring and/or venting, but the distribution of volumes flared and vented at individual sites was highly skewed, such that small numbers of sites handled large fractions of the total gas flaring and venting in the Province. Examination of month-to-month volume variability at individual sites, cast in terms of a nominal turndown ratio that would be required for a compressor to capture that gas and direct it into a pipeline, further revealed that volumes at a majority of sites were reasonably stable and there was no evidence that larger or more stable sites had been preferentially reduced, leaving potential barriers to future mitigation. Through linking of geospatial data with production data coupled with additional statistical analysis, the 31.2% increase in venting volumes since 2005 was revealed to be predominantly associated with increased production of heavier oils and bitumen in the Lloydminster region of the Province. Overall, the data suggest that quite significant reductions in flaring and venting could be realized by seeking mitigation solutions for only the largest batteries in the Province.

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