Refinery flares are normal says Utah Department of Environmental Quality

UPDATED: AUGUST 9, 2022 AT 4:00 PM
Alejandro Lucero

SALT LAKE CITY — Steady flames burning at refinery sites have become commonplace for residents and I-15 regulars in Salt Lake City. But when the Marathon refineries’ steady flames turned into bright flares accompanied by booms, there was some cause for concern. 

“It definitely seemed out of the ordinary and didn’t exactly seem like something that was supposed to be happening,” said Ben Anderson, who recorded the flares on August 6, 2022.

Although uncommon, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality said that what was captured on video appears to be a normal safety flaring event. 

Matt McPherson, public information officer for UDEQ, told KSL NewsRadio in an email, that flares are normal. And that they act as a safety device in case a malfunction happens in the refinery process. Fuel is diverted to the flare if a malfunction occurs helping to avoid damage to fuel processing equipment. 

“Flares are not quiet when they operate,” said McPherson. “The size of the flare and the sound (boom) will vary depending on how much fuel and how long it is diverted to the flare.” 

McPherson also said that it may have seemed like the refinery flares lasted a while. This is because the process takes some time to shut down when a malfunction occurs.

When functioning properly, flares should not emit pollutants into the air because they destroy any fuel burned, preventing improper emissions.