Gas flaring and resultant air pollution: A review focusing on black carbon

Olusegun G. Fawole, X. M. Cai, A. R. Mackenzie*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)
1570 Downloads (Pure)


Gas flaring is a prominent source of VOCs, CO, CO2, SO2, PAH, NOX and soot (black carbon), all of which are important pollutants which interact, directly and indirectly, in the Earth's climatic processes. Globally, over 130 billion cubic metres of gas are flared annually. We review the contribution of gas flaring to air pollution on local, regional and global scales, with special emphasis on black carbon (BC, "soot"). The temporal and spatial characteristics of gas flaring distinguishes it from mobile combustion sources (transport), while the open-flame nature of gas flaring distinguishes it from industrial point-sources; the high temperature, flame control, and spatial compactness distinguishes gas flaring from both biomass burning and domestic fuel-use. All of these distinguishing factors influence the quantity and characteristics of BC production from gas flaring, so that it is important to consider this source separately in emissions inventories and environmental field studies. Estimate of the yield of pollutants from gas flaring have, to date, paid little or no attention to the emission of BC with the assumption often being made that flaring produces a smokeless flame. In gas flares, soot yield is known to depend on a number of factors, and there is a need to develop emission estimates and modelling frameworks that take these factors into consideration. Hence, emission inventories, especially of the soot yield from gas flaring should give adequate consideration to the variation of fuel gas composition, and to combustion characteristics, which are strong determinants of the nature and quantity of pollutants emitted. The buoyant nature of gas flaring plume, often at temperatures in the range of 2000 K, coupled with the height of the stack enables some of the pollutants to escape further into the free troposphere aiding their long-range transport, which is often not well-captured by model studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)182-197
Number of pages16
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Early online date1 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2016


  • Black carbon
  • Emission factors
  • Gas flaring
  • Hydrocarbon
  • Incomplete combustion
  • Oil and gas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Toxicology


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