Q&A on flaring

The production of oil and gas helps to assure the supplies of energy and raw materials that are fundamental to the functioning of a modern society. However, in connection with the production and processing of hydrocarbons, under certain conditions it may be necessary to flare, which affects our environment and climate. The operators in the Danish part of the North Sea has focus on conducting their activities in a responsible manner, so as to limit the environmental footprint of the production.

We have gathered a number of questions and answers about flaring.



What is flaring?

The production from the gas and oil fields in the North Sea consists of a mix of oil, gas and water.

The majority of the gas is transported to onshore facilities, while a small part is used as fuel on the platforms themselves. A tiny part of the gas is burned off in a controlled manner without being put to any use; this is known as “flaring”.

Flaring takes place via a special “flare stack” on the platforms.

Why is flaring necessary?

Flaring takes place on all Danish offshore platforms with processing facilities when it is necessary for safety reasons. Flaring is primarily done to prevent the build-up of high pressure at the facility, as this has the potential to cause fractures in pipes and tanks, which could result in uncontrolled gas leaks. Gas leaks and fractures in installations can naturally constitute a risk to safety.

Flaring is also carried out in connection with the operation of the production facilities, so-called routine flaring. Flaring can for example be necessary due to temporarily shut-down of installations on a platform. In this case, it may be necessary to reduce pressure in certain installations before they are maintained, repaired or inspected. Pipelines between fields likewise have to be inspected and cleaned at regular intervals, and here, in some cases, it is necessary to flare gas in order to empty the pipelines.

What are the legal regulations concerning flaring?

Section 10 of the Danish Subsoil Act (Undergrundsloven) states that exploration and extraction activities must be performed in a responsible and appropriate manner, and so as to prevent spillage of raw materials.This means that flaring – except for reasons of safety – should be avoided.Flaring at installations in the Danish Section of the North Sea is subject to the EU’s CO2 quota scheme.All oil and gas producers in the EU are covered by the EU's CO2 quota scheme. This means that producers must have quotas that correspond to CO2 emissions from production, including flaring. Flaring from the installations in the Danish Section of the North Sea is thus also covered by the EU's CO2 quota scheme.The quota scheme was established in 2005, when companies were allocated quotas. The share of quotas to be purchased has since gradually increased to almost 100% in 2021. The companies thus have a direct financial cost of flaring.An Act against routine flaring in Denmark becomes effective in July 2023.


Flaring form the Danish sector in the North Sea 2000-2021

Source: Danish Energy Agency


How can flaring be reduced?

The volume of gas flared is mainly determined by the design of the facility in question. Extensive reconstruction of the treatment facility will therefore often be required in order to achieve an additional, significant reduction of flaring. Furthermore, new facilities can be set up to compress the gas that would otherwise be disposed of through flaring.

Why doesn’t flaring decrease when production declines?

Although Denmark’s production of oil and gas has decreased since 2005, there has not been a corresponding decline in flaring.

The reason for this is that most of the treatment facilities have to remain in operation regardless of how much or how little production is to be run through them. This means that in many cases, decreasing production of oil and gas will not result in a corresponding drop in flaring.

The volume of gas flared is primarily defined by the size and design of the process installations. A corresponding reduction in flaring would therefore require a decrease in installation capacity; in other words, the installation would have to be reconstructed.

Why does Denmark flare more than other countries, such as Norway?

It is common to make comparisons between different countries regarding the amount of gas flared per volume of oil and gas produced.

In Denmark, this figure has risen in recent years, in spite of a substantially lower production of oil and gas. The reason for this is that the volume of gas flared has not decreased correspondingly, because this volume is mainly determined by factors such as the size, lay-out and age of the individual facilities.

The installations in the Danish section of the North Sea are relatively small and old. Norwegian installations, in contrast, are often larger and newer. This is naturally of significance to their efficiency, and thus to their need for flaring.