Flaring at Oil and Natural Gas Production Sites
January 7, 2020

There are thousands of oil and gas wells operating across the state of Texas and the USA. Many wells are sometimes flared and the sight of these flares can cause concern to citizens that observe them near their residence or while traveling across the state. They are also necessary for safe operation at Oil and Gas facilities. This write up will help explain flare operations at oil and gas sites.


Introduction to regulations regarding flaring

All State Oil and Gas operations are subject to 40CFR 60.18 as a baseline for Federal Rules on Flaring Requirements (see as reference TCEQ and EPA)

The best example for Oil and Gas flaring are Texas Requirements:

The Texas Railroad  Commission’s Statewide Rule 32 (16 Texas Administrative Code §3.32) allows an oil and gas operators to flare while drilling a well and for up to 10 days after a well’s completion to conduct well potential testing. Rig Flares fall under this rule. The majority of flaring permit requests received by the Commission are for flaring cashinghead gas from oil wells. Permits to flare from gas wells are not typically issued as natural gas is the main product of a gas well.

Flaring of casinghead gas for extended periods of time may be necessary if the well is drilled in areas new to exploration. In new areas of exploration, pipeline connections are not typically constructed until after a well is completed and a determination is made about the well's productive capability. Other reasons for flaring include: gas plant shutdowns; repairing a compressor or gas line or well; or other maintenance. In existing production areas, flaring also may be necessary because existing pipelines may have reached capacity. Commission staff issue flare permits administratively for 45 days at a time, for a maximum limit of 180 days. Extensions beyond 180 days must be granted through a Commission Final Order.


See specifics on Statewide Rule 32 at the following link under §3.32 (Gas Well Gas and Casinghead Gas Shall Be Utilized for Legal Purposes).


If operators want to pursue an additional 45 days past the initial 45-day flare permit time period, they must provide documentation that progress has been made toward establishing the necessary infrastructure to produce gas rather than flare it.

The most common reason for granting an extension to an initial flaring permit is the operator is waiting for pipeline construction scheduled to be completed by a specified date. Other reasons for granting an extension include operators needing additional time for well cleanup and pending negotiations with landowners.


The Texas Railroad Commission also regulates flaring under Statewide Rule 32. Information relating to SWR 32 can be found here.


Operators are required to report to the RRC Commission volumes of gas flared on their monthly Production Report form (Form PR). The Form PR must include actual, metered volumes of both gas well gas and casinghead gas reported by operators at the lease level. 


What are production flares?

• The production phase of oil and gas wells happens after well drilling is complete. During the production of oil and natural gas, for varying reasons, gases may not be able to be captured and routed to a pipeline for sale. Flares are used to burn this excess or waste gas at the production sites, which may include equipment such as storage tanks, wellheads and pumpjacks.

• The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is the state’s air permitting authority for these sites and enforces state and federal regulations concerning air emissions from these sites. They fall under Air PBR 106.492: Flares Smokeless gas flares that meet the conditions of 30 TAC Sections 106.492 and 106.4 are permitted by rule. Links to relevant forms, guidance, and rules.

Smokeless gas flares that meet the specific conditions of Title 30, Texas Administrative Code (30 TAC), Section 106.492 and are located in a facility that meets the general conditions of 30 TAC Section 106.4 are permitted by rule.


Why are flares necessary?

 • For safety purposes: Flares protect employees, residences, and resources that may be located near oil and natural gas sites by safely burning the flammable gases. At sites with high hydrogen sulfide (H2S) concentrations, flares are used to reduce the hazards associated with H2S. (As with any radiant source of heat, people other than trained personnel should avoid getting near flares.)

 • For pollution reduction: State and federal regulations may require a flare to be used in order to reduce site emissions. Flares help reduce the amount of pollution released into the environment by burning and destroying the gas instead of allowing it to vent directly into the atmosphere.


How can I tell if a flare is effectively destroying the gas?

While effective combustion cannot be verified with the naked eye, a visible flame is often an indicator that the flare is burning and destroying waste gas.


Should a flare always have a visible flame?

No, not always.

 • Some flares are only used when necessary and therefore may not have a constant visible flame.

 • Some flares burn waste gas with a flame that is enclosed or otherwise barely visible.


Is a visible flame okay?

Yes. The TCEQ 2010 Flare Study demonstrated a visible flame on the flare is a good indicator that the flare is burning and destroying waste gas effectively


Why does a flare smoke?

Smoke can form when the flare does not have enough oxygen in the combustion zone to prevent smoke. However, the TCEQ 2010 Flare Study demonstrated that a flare is burning waste gas effectively when it has a visible flame, even if the flame occasionally has a small amount of smoke.


Should a flare produce an odor?

A properly working flare would not typically have a noticeable odor. However, a slight odor may occur when gasses with H2S content are combusted. Excessive odor from a flare may be an indicator of improper operation. Odors may also originate from equipment other than the flare.


Should a flare produce an audible sound?

Typically, production site flares operate with a minimal amount of sound. Loud noise may be an indicator of an improperly operating flare, however, pressure or steam assisted flares, which may produce a high decibel or high frequency sound, are used in some locations. 


Concerned About Venting of Natural Gas?

Let Cimarron Energy assist your company with vent gas regulation compliance. Our experience can help with your vent gas management needs. Along with Tankless Facilities, our products and services include the following:

  • Vent gas measurement and leak detection services
  • Vapor recovery units (VRU)
  • Vapor recovery towers (VRT)
  • Enclosed Combustors (ECD)
  • Flares
  • Field Service (VRU/VCU maintenance, tank seal inspection/replacement, leak detection)