Flaring is the combustion of gases that are released and takes place for two main reasons: as a safety measure during failures and during major maintenance work. Petrochemical firms are equipped with one or more 'flaring facilities'. These are towers about 150 metres tall from which process gases are evacuated in a controlled manner. 

Safety comes first

Flaring takes place for two main reasons. As a safety measure during failures and during major maintenance work. Storing the gases temporarily is not feasible, according to the firms. They do not burn them to recover energy either.


For safety reasons, pressure build-up must be avoided at all costs. When the emergency procedure is triggered in the event of a failure, the flares fire into action to release the gases in a controlled manner. That means the gases do not end up in the atmosphere unburned. Gases that do not meet 100% quality standards are also flared.

A flare flame can be as high as 50 metres; a flare chimney 150 metres tall. That height serves to protect both people and nature at ground level from the immense heat.

Soot formation

By adding a calculated quantity of steam, the flame burns with less soot formation. At the same time, such optimum combustion does make the flame louder. Therefore, the firms calculate the ideal supply of steam to strike the balance between a quiet and clean flame.

However, poor combustion can always occur. So when you see a plume of black smoke rising from the flares, that flame also consists of soot particles. 

Limited to the bare minimum

For safety reasons, a pilot light invariably burns at the top of the torch, in what is known as the 'burner tip'. So the bursts of flame are basically an emergency procedure. And that makes sense too.


For the firms, flaring essentially means burning through money. So they try to keep flaring to an absolute minimum.

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