Atmospheric Emission – Flaring 

This Topic focuses on flare consent requirements under the Petroleum Act 1998. UK ETS requirements are now covered under a standalone topic (see UK ETS).

For information on the impact of Brexit on oil and gas environmental legislation, please refer to the pdf document downloadable from the Home Page.

Key Legislation

For more detail on the Legislation relevant to this page, please use the following links:

Supporting legislation
Guidance Notes
Consent Needed: Consent to Flare  Where a field is flaring > 40 tonnes per day the flare level will be reviewed and a flare consent issued annually. These applications will be subject to detailed review by BEIS and operators must exercise a high level of technical and operational dilligence in estimating quantities. This level of flaring is considered to represent a potential opportunity for further reduction in levels. These applications will need full supporting details with medium and long term plans for flare reduction. Where a field is flaring < 40 tonnes per day, a longer term flare consent may be applied for or issued (see Renewal and Variation tab). Less detailed (minimum) information may be provided on the application form for these flaring levels.See the Performance Standards tab for options on multiple fields producing across the same facility.Note that at the field start-up a series of consents may be issued for short periods (usually for 28 days or a calendar month) to allow BEIS closer control over the operation. As the commissioning programme progresses, BEIS may issue consents for longer periods as greater plant stability is achieved.EU Emissions Trading SchemeSee EU ETS Topic.
How to Apply

Consent to Flare

For a new flare consent, contact should be made in the first instance with the appropriate Consents Unit within BEIS (see below) approximately 3-4 months before start-up. This will kick off a series of meetings and a request for background information (see below). Formal written application for the first flare consent should be made approximately 2 weeks prior to first oil. The consent will not be issued until the first oil date is confirmed.

The NSTA Guidance Notes for the Completion of Flare and Vent Applications provide further information.

Information that will be required during initial discussions with NSTA for a first flare consent application will include the following:

  • A description of gas plant and flare equipment to be commissioned.
  • A description of how the wells will be brought on stream.
  • A detailed description of the plant start-up procedures and philosophy; the procedure for filling the gas export line should also be described.
  • The commissioning schedule.
  • Flaring calculations – to include flaring on a daily basis and total quantities. This should also show the target design flare levels for stable conditions once commissioning is complete.
  • Sketches and figures should also be supplied for:
    • Overall commissioning programme
    • Fuel gas system
    • Gas dehydration system
    • Gas compression system
    • Gas export system and pipeline
    • Onshore facilities

Initial consent application in the form of a letter, should include the following as a minimum:

  • Flare level for consent being applied for (usually for a 28 day period)
  • Justification of how this figure has been arrived at, including GOR rates, etc.
  • Description of the work being carried out during the 28 day period

For an annual flare consent application (see Renewal and Variation tab for more information), information required includes

  • A summary of the main points of the application.
  • A summary of the main flaring assumptions, including any flare reduction projects planned through the year
  • Flaring calculations – to include flaring on a monthly basis and total quantities.

EU Emissions Trading Scheme

See EU ETS Topic

Who to Apply to Flare Consent  Applications to be submitted via the UK Oil PortalEU Emissions Trading Scheme  See EU ETS Topic
When to Apply Flare Consent  First discussions with NSTA should be held at least 3-4 months before “first oil”.  However, it is advised by NSTA that the operator is in contact at all stages, from design through construction to commissioning planning and demonstrate that all reasonable steps have been taken to keep flaring to a minimum. Application for a first consent should be made at least 2 weeks before “first oil”. Consent will not be issued until the “first oil” date is confirmed.See Renewal for more information on ongoing annual applications.EU Emissions Trading SchemeSee EU ETS Topic.
Limits placed on flare volumes:

Consent will specify the flare volume that must not be exceeded over a specified time. If there is any possibility that the consented rate for the period may be exceeded, the operator must contact BEIS immediately to discuss the difficulties encountered and if appropriate arrange for a revision of the consent.

BEIS has an objective to reduce non-safety related flaring by 5% per year (see Snippets tab). Reductions in flaring are achieved through close cooperation between BEIS, NSTA and the operators, rather than prescriptive limits.

Flare Source Categories:

NSTA has provided definitions for three categories of flare sources:

  • Category 1: Base Load Flare – this includes all the gas used for safe and efficient operation of the process facility and flare system under normal operating conditions.
  • Category 2: Flaring from Operational or Mode Changes – this includes gas flaring resulting from the start up and planned shut down of equipment during production amongst others.
  • Category 3: Emergency Shutdown/Process Trip – this includes any gas flared during an emergency.
  • Category 4: Unignited Vents – note this would fall under the Vent Consent not the Flare Consent (see Venting)

More information is provided on the Oil and Gas Authorities Flaring and Venting Page.

Note: Cold flaring is considered a venting activity and should not be included in flaring reports or against a flaring consent.

Multiple Field Tie-ins to Single Facility: Where several fields tie-in to common facilities, flare is < 40 tonnes per day and the fields have the same operator and licensees, the operator may apply for a single composite consent and the level of flaring permitted in this consent will be based on the sum of the individual field contributions to the total flare level. Where the fields have different operators and licensees, usually separate consents will continue to be issued. However, if all parties agree to apply for a single flare consent covering all the fields going into the facilities and the total flare level is < 40 tonnes per day then a combined 3-year flare consent will be considered.
EU Emissions Trading Scheme: See EU ETS Topic for EU ETS performance standards.
Flare volumes and performance of gas compression plant:
  • Daily flare and cumulative flare volumes.
  • Downtime/uptime of gas plant.

Note: Cold flaring is considered a venting activity and should not be included in flaring reports or against a flaring consent.

Accuracy of Measurement and Reporting: Reporting must be in mass units (water dry metric tonnes). There are a number of methods to quantify gas volume flared and likewise a number of methods to convert this to a mass basis. Flare quantification is in accordance with the requirements for flaring associated with the EU-ETS Phase II. Operators should ensure that the methodology they have in place meets or exceeds the necessary levels of accuracy (see EU ETS).
EU Emissions Trading Scheme: See EU ETS Topic for EU ETS monitoring and sampling requirements.
Note: the following information only applies to Flare Consents. Reporting for Flaring under EU ETS is covered under the EU ETS Topic.
What to Report:

There are two types of reporting required for flaring. The first is statutory reporting to DECC the second is voluntary reporting of environmental emissions due to flaring which is used by Oil & Gas UK to report industry performance.Flare Consent : the following shall be sent to DECC for the previous reporting period (as specified in the Flare Consent).

  • Short technical summary of performance of gas handling plant, highlighting any features which have affected or could affect the operation of the plant.
  • Rates in respect to oil production, gas production, gas export, gas used for fuel and gas flare.
  • Cumulative average for production and flare.
  • Calculations of gas compression plant efficiency.

Some consents may include the provision that specific monthly flare reporting is not needed and that flare volumes are reported in the routine field reporting into DECC Petroleum Production Reporting System (PPRS). In this case, specific flare reporting would be by exception only if flaring is out of consent.

EEMS Reporting  

Complete relevant parts of applicable atmospheric emissions inventory EEMS pro forma that can be downloaded from the EEMS Website. Guidance notes are also available from the EEMS site.

How to Report: See Above
Who to Report to: Flare Consent  DECC’s Petroleum Production Reporting according to terms of consent.EEMS Reporting  Completed reports should be submitted electronically via the EEMS website.
When to Report: Statutory information  Frequency of reporting will be established through consent (e.g. weekly or monthly). It varies widely according to stage of field production and between fields and operators. For fields on long-term flare consents there will be no need for end of year flare reporting.EEMS Reporting  Annually by 7 February.
What to do if in breach of consent: If there is a possibility of exceeding the flare consent value, contact should be made with DECC to discuss the problems, and if appropriate arrange for a revised consent. It is unlawful to flare gas without a current consent and in extreme cases this could lead to withdrawal of the licence. Non-compliances should be reported through the routine flare consent reporting or, if there is no specific routine flare reporting, then breach of exemption conditions should be reported at month end as they occur. Early phone contact with DECC is recommended before consent limits are exceeded.
EU ETS: See EU ETS Topic
OPPC Regulations: A permit is no longer required for potential flare drop-out. However, if flare drop out does occur resulting in an oil sheen at sea, a PON1 report must be submitted.
Offshore Inspection: The DECC Environmental Inspectorate Enforcement Policy (PDF document) sets out the general principles that Inspectors shall follow in relation to enforcement including prosecution.
Duration of Consent: Applications can be made for flare consents covering the remaining duration of Phase 2 of the EU-ETS (the period 1 January 2010 – 31 December 2012) or on an annual basis, depending upon the total daily hydrocarbon flare level from a field or a grouping of fields going through an installation(s). Long term flare consents will not be permitted for any field or grouping of fields going through an installation(s) that seek permission to flare at rates in excess of 40 tonnes a day. If a field is flaring less than 40 tonnes of hydrocarbon gas a day, and if, for the period 2010 to 2012 the flare application does not request any increase in the levels permitted in the extant flare consent, licensees can apply for a three year flare consent. If this application is approved by the Department, a long term consent will be issued, subject to a number of conditions (see DECC Guidance on the Completion of Flare and Vent Applications)
When to renew consent/exemption: Commissioning phases – re-application should be made approximately 2 weeks before the next consent period. Annual ongoing flare consents. DECC will invite applications for renewal in September each year, with annual consents being issued in December for the following year. DECC Guidance on the Completion of Flare and Vent Applications is available on the DECC website.
EU ETS Permit – Variation: See EU ETS Topic
EU ETS Permit – Closure of Installation: See EU ETS Topic
Cold Flaring: This is considered to be a venting activity, and controlled under the venting consent (see Venting). It should not be reported as flaring or counted against the flaring consent.
Draft Clean Air Strategy 2018 The draft Clean Air Strategy outlines ambitions to reduce overall air pollution and make our air healthier to breath, protect nature and boost the economy.
It highlights the importance of effective co-operation with the devolved administrations and sets out actions already underway in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to cut air pollution right across the UK. It is currently under consultation.
Flare Consent Levels: DECC has an objective to reduce non-safety related flaring by 5% per year. It has been left to individual Field Teams to decide how to meet that objective. The Southern North Sea Field Team (London based staff of LCU-LED) have decided to meet the objective by an across the board reduction in flare consents. The Aberdeen based staff have decided to take a different approach and are assessing proposals on a case-by-case basis to achieve the same overall reduction.
Transitional National Plan (TNP): quarterly register
The TNP scheme allows large combustion plants (with a thermal rating equal to or greater than 50 megawatts) first licensed before 27 November 2002 to trade their annual allowances for sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter (dust) with other large combustion plants within the TNP scheme.
Updated Energy and Emissions projections: 2015 A report detailing projections of the UK emissions performance against national greenhouse gas targets under existing policies has been released by DECC. It includes projections of the demand for each type of fuel for different sectors of the economy. The report includes projected energy demand for electricity and indicates what mix of generation will meet it (link here).
Update on NSTA approach to licence amendments (July 2021) The NSTA has announced that they will now make licence amendments in the same way as was done pre-COVID.