The excess gas is burned off to regulate the pressure on the oilrig. If the flame is extinguished, the results could be catastrophic since the pressure would rise dramatically. Regardless of where you are on the rig, the roar of the flame is always audible.
At night, the North Alwyn oilrig is a beacon of light on a sea of darkness. The two massive steel skeletons tower above the frigid North Sea waters; inside a few dozen men are hard at work. The work never stops on board the oil industries artificial island. Every day more than 31,000 barrels of oil are pumped up from under the ocean floor. When they are not drilling for oil and gas, the 160 men who call the rig home have their hands full with maintenance and safety drills. Nothing is left to chance. Once a week a catastrophe drill is simulated. The living quarters are virtually fireproof. And every worker must carry a gas detector at all times. Even the smallest leak or lapse in safety could be disastrous. For two weeks, the workers live on the platform owned by the French concern Total-Elf-Fina. In their spare time they watch movies, play computers, games or billiard and go to the gym. When their tour is over, a helicopter arrives from the mainland with the next shift of workers.