Industrial flares are widely used as safety devices in petroleum refineries, chemical plants and oil and gas fields. Waste process gases are vented to flares to be safely combusted over the flare tips, avoiding industrial accidents and reducing air pollution. But recent studies have found flares are producing significantly more emissions than previously estimated and has prompted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement stricter compliance standards aimed at reducing smoking flare emissions. The new EPA provisions require refineries to have a minimum of three pollution prevention measures installed, analyze the causes and remedies of release events, and implement continuous monitoring of flares and pressure release devices.
The EPA estimates that improved flare monitoring and other revised compliance standards will eliminate 5,600 tons per year of toxic air pollutants, and 52,000 tons per year of volatile organic compounds (VOC) when they take effect in 2019. Reducing toxic emissions from refineries will result in improved air quality and significant reduction of risk to public health in communities surrounding these facilities.