How Much Natural Gas is "Flard"/Wasted?

I was returning from Brazil Sunday night-about 3:00 AM, we were over Roraima, Brazil. As we entered Venezuelan airspace, I was immediately attracted to the large red flames-easily visible from 36,000 feet! It was the burning natural gas , from thousands of oil wells. It made me wonder-why waste all this energy? It seemed like the flaes went on for hundreds of miles-till we reached the coast.
Why is so much valuable energy wasted? Flaring gas seems like it should have a major carbon footprint as well-should I complainto Gen. Hugo Chavez?:smiley:

AFAIK, gas flaring is done to prevent dangerous pressure buildup. However, it is very wasteful, with 150 billion cubic meters flared annually (the natural gas usage of Germany and France, for comparison’s sake), releasing 400 million tons of CO2. (cite) However, burning the gas is better than just letting it go free, because methane is a very powerful greenhouse gas.

Tapping the natural gas requires that pipelines and other facilities be built to capture, transport and use the gas. Building electrical generators and power lines might be another way to tap it. Neither is not a very cheap solution, especially if you’re mostly after oil from a field with a limited lifespan. As mentioned, it’s better for global warming to burn natural gas than release it.

So, it’s one of those cases where something is efficient from an economic sense, but not necessarily from an environmental one.

If the flames are red, I’d wager that the gas being burned was junky stuff with lots of contamination. Clean natural gas burns blue.

Flares are common at refineries - it’s the most effective way to get rid of the garbage at the end of the process - they’ve already extracted as much usable fuel as possible from the raw gas and oil, and any further processing will cost more than what it would yield, so it’s financially sensible to just burn it off.

when it is being combusted more fully, yellow flame if not.