Energy Exchange

Texas oil and gas regulators offer a weak fix to flaring

This post was originally published in The Dallas Morning News

After months of promising talk about curbing the oil and gas industry’s wasteful and polluting flaring habit, the Texas Railroad Commission unveiled a plan that does little to fix the problem. Despite calls from mineral owners, the public and even some in the industry itself to end routine flaring, the commission instead embraced largely empty measures advanced by an oil and gas trade group.

Flaring, setting fire to natural gas produced as an oil byproduct, is a colossal waste of resources and releases both carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. In recent years, the Railroad Commission has served as little more than a rubber stamp for oil and gas flaring in Texas. Since 2013, operators have obtained 35,000 flaring permits without a single denial.

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Also posted in Air Quality, Methane regulatons, Natural Gas, Texas / Comments are closed

SoCalGas wants a lifeline to stay in business — suing California is not the answer.

Earlier this month, the largest gas utility in the country filed a lawsuit against the state of California for its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Southern California Gas Company claims in its suit that the California Energy Commission has not properly considered what role natural gas can play in a clean energy future.

It is a pretty bold move from SoCalGas — the company that supplies a fossil fuel that inherently runs counter the long-term benefit of the environment, and was responsible for the massive 2015 Aliso Canyon gas leak that for months on end sent nearly a hundred thousand tons of potent methane gas into the atmosphere.

This is a spurious argument aimed at advancing the false notion that gas utilities should continue to provide customers with gas, whether they want it or not.

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Also posted in California, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

Zero routine flaring by 2025 and the Texas policy needed to get there

Routine flaring at oil and gas production sites in Texas has been a chronic issue for years, as the rampant process burns off viable fuel product while emitting carbon dioxide, methane and toxic pollutant emissions into the atmosphere. Yet momentum for eliminating the practice is building among investors, operators and landowners, pushing the state’s regulatory body, the Texas Railroad Commission, to consider new flaring policy.

Several major operators, such as Chevron and Pioneer, have already significantly reduced flaring rates to less than 1%. In a recent blog touting Exxon Mobil’s greatly improved Permian flaring performance, the operator stated their experience, “demonstrates that zero routine flaring is within everyone’s reach.”

But as J.P. Morgan Asset Management stated in a recent flaring report, “voluntary operator actions to reduce routine flaring, while necessary, have proven insufficient to deliver on the industry’s full potential,” while reiterating “zero routine flaring by 2025 represents an important and achievable goal.” In order to achieve this goal, policymakers must step in to ensure widespread adoption and outline actionable goals.

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Also posted in Air Quality, Methane regulatons, Natural Gas, Texas / Comments are closed

Data underscores need to strengthen Pennsylvania’s methane rule proposal

In July, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection concluded its public comment period on proposed rules to curb methane emissions from existing oil and gas facilities.

As the state weighs feedback, EDF analysis shows Pennsylvania operators emit over 1 million tons of methane annually — 16 times what they report to regulators — and underscores the need for rules that close existing loopholes to properly address this climate and public health risk.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration has already demonstrated leadership on methane with permits to cut pollution from new oil and gas infrastructure. Now Pennsylvania has an opportunity to tackle the vast majority of its methane emissions, which come from existing oil and gas facilities.

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Also posted in Air Quality, Methane regulatons, Natural Gas, Pennsylvania / Comments are closed

EU must take on its methane problem before turning to hydrogen

Facing dangerous levels of warming, Europe aspires to achieve a net-zero carbon economy by 2050. The oil and gas industry want us to believe natural gas can play a constructive role in this green energy future. And right now, these companies are lining up behind the idea that European Union policymakers should invest heavily in new incentives for hydrogen as a way to store and deliver energy for transport and the electric system.

Hydrogen separated from water using renewable electricity — so called ‘green hydrogen’ — might be economically viable someday. But for now, the cheapest way to make hydrogen is by converting natural gas. Natural gas is a major source of carbon dioxide emissions; it also consists mostly of methane, which is itself a greenhouse pollutant, with over 80 times the near-term warming power of carbon dioxide.

When it comes to climate change and achieving a net-zero carbon future, natural gas solves nothing unless both carbon dioxide and methane emissions associated with its production, distribution and use are fully controlled. Opening up a whole new market for converting gas to hydrogen without clearly establishing how those emissions will be dealt with would only make a serious problem much worse.

The European Commission recently released two major energy policy strategies in which methane and role of natural gas are at issue.

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Also posted in Air Quality, Europe, Methane regulatons, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

Climate leadership is Canada’s truest, best path to world stage

This piece was originally published in The Hill Times

Pundits are wringing their hands over Canada’s frustrated bid for a temporary spot on the United Nations Security Council. But perhaps Canada was auditioning for the wrong role. What if the undeniable but short-term prestige has kept critics from recognizing a greater, more important place for Canada on the global stage — at precisely the moment it’s most needed?

Climate change looms as an ever-larger threat not only to the world’s economies, but to civilization as a whole. As a major fossil fuel producer and innovative leader in environmental stewardship, Canada is uniquely poised to help usher in a new era of low-carbon energy, both through actions at home and by bringing other countries along through U.N. and other international auspices.

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Also posted in Air Quality, Canada, Methane regulatons / Comments are closed