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Theoretical and Observational Assessments of Flare Efficiencies

Flaring of waste gases is a common practice in the processing of hydrocarbon (HC) materials. It is assumed that flaring achieves complete combustion with relatively innocuous byproducts such as CO2 and H2O.

However, flaring is rarely successful in the attainment of complete combustion, because entrainment of air into the region of combusting gases restricts flame sizes to less than optimum values. The resulting flames are too small to dissipate the amount of heat associated with 100% combustion efficiency.

Equations were employed to estimate flame lengths, areas, and volumes as functions of flare stack exit velocity, stoichiometric mixing ratio, and wind speed. Heats released as part of the combustion process were then estimated from a knowledge of the flame dimensions together
with an assumed flame temperature of 1200 K. Combustion efficiencies were subsequently obtained by taking the ratio of estimated actual heat release values to those associated with 100% complete combustion.

Results of the calculations showed that combustion efficiencies decreased rapidly as wind speed increased from 1 to 6 m/sec. As wind speeds increased beyond 6 m/sec,combustion efficiencies tended to level off at values between 10 and 15%. Propane and ethane tend to burn more efficiently than do methane or hydrogen sulfide because of their lower stoichiometric mixing ratios.

Results of theoretical predictions were compared to nine values of local combustion efficiencies obtained as part of an observational study into flaring activity conducted by the Alberta Research Council (ARC). All values were obtained during wind speed conditions of less than 4 m/sec.

There was generally good agreement between predicted and observed values. The mean and standard deviation of observed combustion efficiencies were 68 ± 7%. Comparable predicted values were 69 ± 7%.


Authors: Douglas M. Leahey and Katherine Preston - Jacques Whitford Environment Limited, Calgary, Alberta, Canada and Mel Strosher
Alberta Research Council, Calgary, Alberta, Canada


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