In light of the recent flaring at the ExxonMobil refinery in Beaumont, we thought it would be useful to discuss what flares are used for. Mason Construction, Ltd. works in a variety of industrial facilities and many of them use flares as safety devices. Most of the time flaring is not cause for alarm.
Yesterday, January 21, 2016, there was a power outage at the ExxonMobil refinery and flaring was used to maintain safe pressure levels in the facility. Standard safety procedures are developed and followed to promote a safe work and community environment. It was wonderful to see everyone following safety procedures.
ExxonMobil has an informative section on their website about flares and what they are used for. According to the webpage:
Flares are important safety devices used in refineries and petrochemical facilities. They safely burn excess hydrocarbon gases which cannot be recovered or recycled. Excess hydrocarbon gases are burnt in the flare systems in an environmentally-sound manner, as an alternative to releasing the vapour directly into the atmosphere.
During flaring, excess gases are combined with steam and/or air, and burnt off in the flare system to produce water vapour and carbon dioxide. The process of burning these excess gases is similar to the burning of liquefied petroleum gases (LPG), which some of us use as fuel for home cooking.
The use of flares is minimized to the extent that is possible. However, flaring can occur during a start-up and shut-down of any of our facilities for maintenance, and also during unplanned operational interruptions such as power outages.
Power outages may be an unplanned operational interruption but refineries are able to maintain safety in the facility by flaring. It may be disconcerting to see large flames and smoke coming from a refinery but when you see flaring you can know that those flares play a significant role in keeping facilities safe.
During flaring, people are often concerned about the air quality for their community. According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) website, the forecasted air quality for the Beaumont-Port Arthur are is "Good” as of 10 a.m., Friday, January 22, 2016. The TCEQ Office of Air oversees air permitting activities and works to protect and restore air quality. They also develop plans and track progress for monitoring air quality.
We are happy to have another safe and beautiful day to work in Southeast Texas and hope you all have a wonderful weekend!
Make it a safe day!