What the EPA and NOAA have struggled with for years, trying to come up with a cause for and solution to prevent - formaldehyde production during the process of procuring natural gas was solved during Airworks Compressors Corp / Intelligent Well Services recent test of their patent pending off grid instrument air skid. It was noted by Darryl Weflen, president of Airworks Compressors Corp that a leaking diaphragm pump was introducing glycol into the natural gas instrument stream and being burned in the enclosed flare device.
There are some inherent problems with combustion of this inadvertent glycol that is introduced to the field gas that requires flaring off or combustion, after being used to operate instruments, and cannot be added back to the pipeline. What happens is that the hydrocarbons in the propylene glycol molecules are partially oxidized - oxygen reacts with them to "steal" electrons. The problem is that when you have a very high temperature heat source, and there is lots of oxygen in comparison to the liquid, there is a good chance that at least some of the glycol will reach the combustion temperature instead of just vaporizing.
When combustion is incomplete (as during the flaring process), you can get any number of compounds, two of which happen to be formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. These are particularly harmful Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) emissions. Formaldehyde, in particular, is a known driver in the production of ozone. Emissions from oil and gas operations were implicated as a major source of these chemicals. Combine the facts that Formaldehyde has been a known human carcinogen since 1987 and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) experts recommend that people, especially those in sensitive groups - children, the elderly, and anyone with pre-existing respiratory conditions - limit time outdoors when there is an ozone spike; it is a given that anyone living in close proximity to a natural gas production facility must be aware of the danger.
The Center for Public Integrity recently (Nov 01, 2014) released an air quality control study done at various natural gas well locations across five states: Arkansas, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wyoming. In 40 percent of the air samples, laboratory tests found formaldehyde, or other toxic substances associated with oil and gas production that were above levels the federal government considers safe for brief or longer-term exposure. Far above, in some cases.
Airworks Compressors Corp off grid instrument air package eliminated this harmful pollutant even with the damaged pump once again showing the advantage of this product in reducing carbon dioxide along with other greenhouse gas and VOC emissions.
Not only will natural gas producers save millions of dollars in lost natural gas revenue and wellhead freeze offs, the health and wellness benefits aspect of creating a zero emmission well site are too astronomical to comprehend!