THE FLARE STACK AT THE CHEMICAL INDUSTRIAL PARK KNAPSACK
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
When the flare stack is ignited in the polypropylene plant, it is a spectacular sight. For many people it can also be unnerving as the flame can reach a height of up to 30 meters, sometimes producing soot and occasionally making a loud noise during burning. This can all be somewhat frightening – especially when it is dark and the flame can be seen for miles.
A burning flare is no cause for alarm – unless you are concerned about the operating result of LyondellBasell's plant at the Chemical Industrial Park Knapsack! There is, however, no safety risk involved – and no threat to the health of employees or local residents either.
What is actually happening when there is a flare-off?
Similarly to a gas lighter, the head of the flare stack is burning off propylene gas. Normally, the synthetic material polypropylene is produced from this gas. However, for various reasons there can sometimes be disruptions in production. In such cases it may become necessary to shut down the plant, which normally operates continuously around the clock, and to burn off the highly flammable propylene.
A tried and tested safety system comes into effect: The gas flare-off system starts and the propylene is burned off. Similarly to a gas lighter, the flame produces soot. If you hold a white plate over the flame of a gas lighter, you can clearly see the soot it produces. Admittedly, the flare-off produces much more soot, but just like the flames we know from our everyday lives (candles, wood fires, gas stoves), the soot consists of pure carbon. This is unpleasant and dirty, but not poisonous. Soot occurs when the flame does not get enough oxygen to burn off the propylene completely. When it is burned completely, only carbon dioxide and water are produced. In order to prevent inconvenience to the neighboring community due to soot formation, the operators add steam to the burning gas flow. This transports oxygen to the inside of the large flame, but also creates noise in the process.
The flare-off process is stopped either when the polypropylene plant resumes production or when all of the necessary gas has been burned off.
You may rest assured that the flare stack burns only when it is really necessary. A valuable raw material is destroyed in the process, so LyondellBasell has a vested interest in preventing such an occurrence.
Head of Safety and Environment
Tel.: +49 22 33 48-6139
Fax: +49 22 33 48-94-6139
Behavioral guidelines for the neighboring community in case of incident