The chemical and solvent processes previously discussed remove acid gases from the gas stream but result in a release of H2S and CO2 when the solvent is regenerated. The release of H2S to the atmosphere may be limited by environmental regulations. The acid gases could be routed to an incinerator or flare, which would convert the H2S to SO2. The allowable rate of SO2 release to the atmosphere may also be limited by environmental regulations. For example, currently the Texas Air Control Board generally limits H2S emissions to 4 Ib/hr (17.5 tons/year) and SO2 emissions to 25 tons/year. There are many specific restrictions on these limits, and the allowable limits are revised periodically. In any case, environmental regulations severely restrict the amount of H2S that can be vented or flared in the regeneration cycle.
Direct conversion processes use chemical reactions to oxidize H2S and produce elemental sulfur. These processes are generally based either on the reaction of H2S and O2 or H2S and SO2. Both reactions yield water and elemental sulfur. These processes are licensed and involve specialized catalysts and/or solvents. A direct conversion process can be used directly on the produced gas stream. Where large flow rates are encountered, it is more common to contact the produced gas stream with a chemical or physical solvent and use a direct conversion process on the acid gas liberated in the regeneration step.