Combustion processes such as gas turbines, furnaces, flares and boilers in the oil and gas industries are significant sources of pollutants that can impair human health and the environment, including sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxide (NOx) and carbon monoxide (CO). Further, these sources will have an impact on global climate via its emission of greenhouses gases – primarily carbon dioxide (CO2).
SO2 and NOx, when emitted to the air, react with water and other compounds to produces various forms of acidic compounds and particles, which can remain in the air for days or weeks. Depending on wind direction and speed, these harmfull substances can be spread in wide areas and are not necessarily limited to the country of the emission sources. When the pollutants fall on to earth or water they will have impact on air quality, visibility, acidification, sensitive forest and coastal ecosystems.
SO2 and NOx emissions form fine particles in the atmosphere. Particulate matter is the term used for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air; fine particles (PM2.5) are smaller than 2.5 microns (millionths of a meter) in diameter. The gas fired combustion sources emit particles directly into the air, but their major contribution to particulate matter air pollution is emissions of SO2 and NOx, which are converted into sulfate and nitrate particles in the atmosphere. These particles make up a large part of the fine particle pollution in most parts of the country. It is scientifically well recognized that there is a correlation between elevated fine particulate matter and increased incidence of illness and premature mortality. In addition, NOx and organic volatile compounds forms ozone with the presence of sunlight. This ozone will be present at ground level and is a major part of the smog and is also linked to potential health hazards including respiratory illness.