Energy Exchange

New Permian data show how worst offenders prevent progress on flaring

Texas’ Permian Basin isn’t just the site of the world’s biggest oil boom. It’s also the source of one of the country’s most unnecessary wastes of energy and associated air pollution. The burning off (flaring) and intentional release (venting) of natural gas has proven to be a black eye Permian producers can’t shake. A previous EDF analysis of 2014-2015 data found that operators in the Permian Basin flared and wasted more than 45 Bcf of natural gas in 2015 alone, enough to serve all 400,000 households in Texas Permian counties for two and a half years.

Production since then has boomed, and the Permian’s flaring problem has too. The burning off of associated gas is predicted to only get worse through 2019, and analysts predict the entire Permian Basin could flare as much as 1 Bcf a day in the coming year. That’s nearly four times the amount of gas produced by the Gulf of Mexico’s most productive gas facility.

EDF has recently analyzed the 2018 flaring data released by the Railroad Commission of Texas, the state’s oil and gas regulator, and beyond illustrating the scale of the problem – operators burned enough gas to serve all the heating and cooking needs of the state’s seven largest cities – the numbers tell us two main things:

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Satellite data confirms Permian gas flaring is double what companies report

A new analysis of satellite data reveals natural gas waste and pollution in the Texas Permian Basin is two times higher than what industry reports to the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC). In 2017 alone, Permian oil and gas operators burned enough gas to serve all the heating and cooking needs of the state’s seven largest cities. That’s roughly $322 million dollars of natural gas that went up in smoke.

Using National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA) Earth Observation Group satellite data, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) analyzed flaring rates and volumes in the Permian for 2017. The results are eye-opening. The satellite data indicates Permian operators burned 104 billion cubic feet of natural gas—4.4 percent of all gas produced. However, industry only reported 55 billion cubic feet of gas burned to the RRC in that same year.

It gets worse. In the Delaware Basin portion of the Permian, which accounts for about half of all gas produced in the basin, satellite data shows operators burning almost eight percent of their gas. That means some individual operators are wasting even more.

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Posted in Natural Gas, Texas / Comments are closed

On pollution facts, don’t be fooled by rhetoric of oil and gas trade groups

Once again, a trade group funded by the oil and gas industry is trying to distort the facts on the industry’s pollution.

In a recent blog post, Texans for Natural Gas cherry picked government data in an attempt to argue against the need for policies that protect public health and the environment.

Posts like this – which take select pieces of data in order to make broad generalizations about industry’s progress toward reducing pollution – often fail to tell the whole story about the harmful emissions that warm the planet, jeopardize public health, and result in the massive waste of U.S. energy resources.

When reading industry-sponsored pollution assessments, there are a few crucial things to keep in mind.

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Posted in Air Quality, BLM Methane, Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

As Permian drilling booms, will the Texas Railroad Commission stand against wasted gas?

This piece originally appeared as an op-ed in the Midland Reporter-Telegram

The West Texas Permian oilfield is poised for rapid development in the next decade; the Energy Information Administration projects oil production in the Permian could grow 60 percent by the year 2030. But oil wells in Texas’ Permian Basin don’t just pump oil, they also produce large amounts of natural gas – which many companies aren’t equipped to handle.

That is posing a problem for Texas, as producers run out of capacity to move associated gas to market. Without reasonable action from the state’s oil and gas regulator, the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC), producers could resort to simply burning away excess gas – something we’ve seen in other oil fields where gas is not the primary production target.

This process, also known as flaring, is a recipe for widespread waste and pollution.

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Posted in Methane, Natural Gas, Texas / Comments are closed

Texans for Natural Gas uses misleading data on methane in Texas

Recently, Texans for Natural Gas (TXNG) issued a report claiming methane emissions have drastically decreased in several of the largest natural gas producing counties in Texas from 2011 to 2016.

The notion of methane emissions rapidly declining across Texas during the largest U.S. oil and gas boom of the century is described in the report’s blog post as amazing, which in fact it would be if the report were accurate. It isn’t. The TXNG report doesn’t even come close to providing a complete representation of methane emissions across the featured Texas counties. TXNG claims methane emissions declined 51 percent in several of the state’s largest producing natural gas counties, and 39 percent across ten of the largest oil-producing counties.

And here’s what data is missing: methane emissions generated from onshore production and gathering. Simply put, the vast majority of emissions aren’t even included. (What’s even worse, their original report failed to disclose that the emission data referenced in TXNG’s blog post only accounted for methane emissions from large midstream  gas facilities.) The revised report’s claims about 2016 reductions in Midland County only account for emissions from six processing plants and compressor stations while ignoring the over 2,000 oil and gas wells. Drawing broad conclusions from a tiny fraction of facilities is shoddy analysis at best and deliberately misleading at worst.

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Posted in Methane, Natural Gas, Texas / Comments are closed

New Texas Permian oil and gas flaring report reveals excessive gas waste and major gaps in operator flaring practices

As companies flock to West Texas’ Permian Basin to cheaply drill for and extract oil and gas, some operators are flooding the night sky with natural gas flares, polluting the air with unhealthy and climate-altering pollutants, and wasting copious amounts of this important, domestic energy resource.

The Permian Basin, which stretches across 75,000 square miles in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico, is in the midst of one of the largest energy booms of the century. An estimated 60-70 billion barrels of recoverable oil is located in the area, which is worth roughly $3.3 trillion at current prices, according to IHS Markit. Oil isn’t the only resource in abundant supply. EIA estimates that operators in the Permian are producing 7.3 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. But a rush to produce higher value oil has some Permian drillers simply flaring the gas instead of investing in gathering and pipeline infrastructure.

A new EDF flaring report, released this week, has uncovered a wide discrepancy between flaring rates among the top 15 oil and gas producers working in the Texas Permian Basin. Some of the oil and gas producers studied in the report are wasting close to 10 percent of their produced gas due to flaring practices, highlighting the fact that the oil and gas industry continues to struggle to control natural gas waste. Read More »

Posted in Methane, Natural Gas, Texas / Comments are closed