How Capstone's Innovations in Gas Flaring Turns Challenges Into Opportunities

June 28, 2024

Energy operators globally face increasing pressure to reduce and prevent gas flaring and venting. The World Bank’s Zero Routine Flaring by 2030 (ZRF) Initiative aims to end gas flaring practice by 2030.

Gas flaring and venting contribute significantly to methane emissions, which have a global warming potential that is 28 times higher than CO2 emissions over 100 years and more than 80 times greater over a 20-year period.

Capstone Green Energy’s global distributor network works closely with its oil and gas customers to create breakthrough solutions that benefit the local communities, reduce operators’ carbon footprints, and turn wasted by-product into revenue streams. One such solution is using Capstone microturbines, which provide electrical power for site operations with waste gas from the oil extraction process that would have otherwise been flared into the atmosphere.

Gas Flaring Explained

Before delving into alternative solutions, it’s worthwhile to understand what gas flaring is and why it’s part of the process. Gas flaring involves burning oil extraction gas. Its purpose is threefold:

  1. Safety. Gas flaring helps manage fluctuating and high pressures in oil and gas operations by burning excess gas to alleviate pressure on equipment.
  2. Location. Given that oil fields are often in remote areas, moving the waste gas to a processing and utilization facility can pose significant logistical and economic challenges.
  3. Regulations. Gas is a by-product of the oil extraction process, and various types of flaring can occur during this process, including routine and non-routine flaring. Routine flaring, which refers to gas flaring during standard oil extraction operations, is the most avoidable and easiest to reduce. Non-routine flaring is sporadic and may be necessary for stabilization.

Although waste gas is anticipated as part of routine operations, regulations in some countries may restrict companies from monetizing this gas due to ambiguous guidelines on its commercial use, causing uncertainty in its handling.

Alternatives to Flaring and Venting

Blackridge Research, a global energy research firm, points out that there are various effective alternatives to flaring that benefit the community, operators, and the operator’s bottom line.

  • Power Generation: Recovering and treating associated gases to be used in “gas-driven micro and large turbines and steam-driven turbines” to generate electricity.

  • Secondary oil recovery: Restoring natural formation pressure in aged wells, by reinjecting natural gas otherwise flared. This enhances “secondary oil recovery, and significantly reduces black carbon emissions from oil production.”

  • Portable CNG facilities: Compressing methane derived from oil wells at high pressure to be “stored in cylinders as compressed natural gas (CNG) for use as a fuel for oil field activities or trucked to nearby gas-processing facilities.”

  • Feedstock for petrochemical production: Some of the associated gases from oil drilling can be used as “the main raw material in the production of ammonia, methanol, glass, paint, rubber, syngas, etc.”

  • Liquefied natural gas: Associated gases such as natural gas can be liquefied and sold to the local market for “domestic and industrial use.”

Environmental Opportunity

Microturbines are seen as a leading solution to eliminating gas flaring, emitting 10 times fewer NOx emissions than flaring. Operators find that costs are typically recouped within 2-3 years, unlike other pollution control equipment that is considered sunk costs for ongoing oil and gas operations.

Also, minimal pre-treatment is required to utilize waste gas. This enhances gas monetization and reduces operational costs by eliminating the necessity for extra fuel-cleaning equipment.

Moreover, a microturbine’s ability to operate on a wide range of fuels with varying calorific values enhances reliability and reduces downtime, giving it the flexibility to reliably operate with many waste fuels and making it a good fit for numerous flare gas applications.

Success Snapshot

Australian-owned AGL Energy and exclusive Capstone Green Energy distributor Optimal Group are pioneers in repurposing flare gas. Together, they collaborated to create the world’s first Capstone C1000S microturbine, powered solely by butane.

In 2020, AGL commissioned Optimal Group to install the cogeneration unit at its remote Wallumbilla LPG facility. In routine operation, the constituents that cannot be sold are labeled as waste gas. For the customer, butane is one such constituent. Therefore, it can be utilized to generate power and heat that would otherwise have less value, thus reducing their own operating expenses. The grid-connected system supports the plant’s power requirements of 200kW, but also allows exporting up to 800kW of excess power onto the local electric utility grid.

This innovative system marked a significant milestone as the first gas site globally to utilize a butane-powered microturbine connected to the grid for on-site power generation. Additionally, it is the first Type-B certified butane-fueled microturbine in Australia and the first microturbine linked to the grid in Queensland.


BBC. (2022, September 29). Gas flaring: What is it and why is it a problem?

Blackridge Research & Consulting. (2022, September 30). What is Gas Flaring? Definition, Types, Impact, Alternatives, and Future Outlook.

Burke, J. (2020, December 1). Capstone Scores Follow-up Order. Power Progress.

GCM Staff. (2018, March 29). Microturbines For Flare Gas-to-Energy Project. Gas Compression Magazine.

The World Bank. (2021, September 16). Zero Routine Flaring by 2030 (ZRF) Initiative.

The World Bank. (n.d.). Gas Flaring Explained.