Abstract

Industries are continually looking for innovative ways to improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The incineration of waste gas products is not a new concept to the oil and gas industry however, in recent years, significant improvements in incinerator design and technology have resulted in optimal performance, increased reliability and reduced capital and operating costs.

Since the technology has measurable 99.99% combustion efficiency with no visible flame, black smoke or detectable odour, petroleum companies are now considering incineration as a cost effective and environmentally responsible alternative to conventional flaring. Incineration is a proven method to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because the global warming potential (GWP) of methane is 21 times greater than the GWP of CO2. Hence, the complete combustion process that incineration offers reduces the global warming effect and significantly improves air quality. Also assisting in reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the fact that incineration requires significantly less fuel gas to combust low heat content streams such as acid or tail gas.

Discussion

Incineration allows for the complete combustion of waste gas streams, where the only emissions exiting the stack to the atmosphere, are carbon dioxide and water vapour. Sulphur dioxide also exits the stack when sulphur compounds such as hydrogen sulphide are present in the waste gas stream. Complete combustion is achieved with incineration due primarily to the elevated temperatures reached in the enclosed combustion chamber. In stacks where sufficient temperatures cannot be achieved, incomplete combustion will result and a variety of by-products are formed that often appear as black smoke and soot particles. From the research conducted by the University of Alberta and the Alberta Research Council, over 250 of these compounds have been identified, some of which are carcinogenic polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH's). The soot and black smoke occurs most noticeably when the gas is rich (longer chain hydrocarbons), as is the case with solution gas.

Flares have difficulty burning efficiently as they do not reach as high a temperature and their performance is adversely affected by cross winds, composition and entrained liquid droplet size in the waste gas stream. Incineration allows control of the combustion process to increase efficiency and optimize the fuel gas consumption. Hence, improving the combustion process by using incineration improves the air quality in the vicinity of oil and gas facilities, over flaring or venting the waste gas.

Incineration Technology

The combustion process within the incinerator results in a thorough mixing of the waste gas stream with sufficient air, followed by the ignition process. The elevated temperatures reached in an incinerator ensure complete combustion of the waste stream.

Improvements in incinerator design and technology have resulted in reduced costs and greater reliability. Since the technology has measurable 99.99% combustion efficiency with no visible flame, black smoke or detectable odour, petroleum companies are now considering incineration as a cost effective and environmentally responsible alternative to conventional flaring.

These principles are primarily responsible for improved air quality and the reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

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