Flares are actually a safety mechanism, according to Joe Andrepont, community affairs representative with a local industry. “It looks like something is burning, so it’s understandable that it causes concern; but, the purpose of the flare is to minimize air pollution and prevent industrial accidents.”
Within the processes at some local industries, excess fuel gas is produced or it is impractical to continue storing a product. Flaring, or a controlled safe combustion, is the best solution in those cases. “Rather than venting potentially damaging hydrocarbons into the atmosphere, flares eliminate excess pressure and process gas by burning it off,” explained Andrepont.
Another cause for concern is the noise associated with flaring. Andrepont says it’s due to the introduction of steam within the flaring process. “Steam is used as a coolant to promote a clean burning flame. When the steam is introduced, it creates a hissing or rumbling noise. The steam cools the system and reduces smoke.”
Because of the light from the flare and the noise, residents may not look too favorably at industries while they flare. “I’ve gotten many phone calls and comments from people while we’re flaring,” Andrepont said, “but once I give a brief explanation of what’s happening and why we’re doing it, they usually understand. We know it’s a nuisance, and it actually costs the company money to flare. We don’t want to do it, but it’s the safest way to handle the product at times. We try to minimize it as much as possible.”