Flares are no longer fashionable

An end to methane gas flaring at oil fields might soon be plausible thanks to work by researchers at Washington State University. With current engineering, oil and gas fields are essentially forced to burn off methane as they operate, not only is this a waste of a useful fossil fuel resource but the pollution amounts to as much greenhouse gas in a year as 1 million cars from oil and gas fields in North Dakota alone. Oil companies burn off about one third of the methane they obtain because it is too expensive to use at the volumes they produce. The WSU team has developed a small reactor that could be attached to an oil rig that would inexpensively convert methane and water into carbon monoxide and hydrogen, which can both then be used in the manufacture of liquid fuels and industrial chemicals.