Energy Exchange

Another study reveals Permian methane levels are abnormally high, reinforcing need for action

By Jon Goldstein and David Lyon

A new peer-reviewed study published today once again confirms the Permian Basin has some of the leakiest oil and gas wells in the country.

For the study, researchers with the University of Wyoming used a mobile methane laboratory to quantify emissions from 46 randomly selected well pads in New Mexico and 25 in Texas. They found those sites are emitting between 5 to 9 times more methane pollution than The Environmental Protection Agency estimates suggest.

This granular look at well pad emissions is a critical part of understanding what is causing the emissions. Earlier this year, EDF used this data to estimate total methane emissions across New Mexico and concluded the state was likely emitting up to one million metric tons of methane per year.

When combined with other measurement techniques, we can get an even clearer sense of the entire region’s methane footprint. The satellite-based TROPOMI methane instrument, as well as aerial surveys conducted through our PermianMAP project — can detect emissions from other types of oil and gas equipment.

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

Amid federal rollbacks, new study shows stronger methane rules make economic sense for New Mexico

Over the past month, the Trump administration has pressed forward with rollbacks of federal protections from oil and gas methane pollution — a move that will result in millions of tons of additional emissions every year and endanger public health, air quality and our climate.

The loss of these protections underscores the importance of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s commitment to nation-leading methane rules in New Mexico. Achieving the governor’s goal will require regulators to close loopholes in their proposed rules that would leave emissions from 95% of oil and gas wells across the state unchecked.

Fortunately, new economic analysis reveals that by closing these pollution loopholes the state can deliver strong, cost-effective rules that reduce pollution, safeguard air quality and deliver millions of dollars in public health benefits and increased royalties.

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Also posted in Air Quality, Methane, Natural Gas, New Mexico / Comments are closed

Simplifying the debate about routine flaring

There is broad and growing agreement that the practice of routinely flaring natural gas in Texas must quickly come to an end. The reason for this is obvious. Setting fire to natural gas produced at oil wells is a significant waste of resources and releases vast amounts of carbon dioxide, methane and other harmful pollution into the atmosphere.

That’s why EDF and other environmental groups, investors, elected officials, communities and even some oil and gas companies are calling on the Texas Railroad Commission to end the practice as soon as possible.

What is Routine Flaring?

Sometimes discussions about routine flaring get bogged down in details, loopholes and special circumstances. But at its core, routine flaring and the need to end it are pretty simple.

Routine flaring occurs when an operator is producing oil (or gas condensates) from a well without a use or destination for the associated natural gas that is produced.

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

By ending routine flaring, Colorado can once again lead the nation

Colorado doesn’t take a back seat to anyone when it comes to protecting residents from oil and gas development, and the state’s track record speaks for itself.

In 2014, Colorado became the first state to directly regulate oil and gas methane emissions. Earlier this year, the state adopted nation-leading well integrity rules to protect residents from leaks and explosions. And just last month, it became the first state in the nation to require air pollution monitoring during oft-neglected early stages of oil and gas drilling.

That’s what makes Colorado’s behind-the-times regulation of venting and flaring an outlier that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission must address as it considers regulatory improvements later this month.

Due to outdated requirements, operators in Colorado vent and flare (simply burn off) more than $12 million worth of natural gas every year, wasting valuable resources and polluting our air.

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

Harnessing Europe’s climate diplomacy and energy policy to drive down methane worldwide

With the forthcoming EU Methane Strategy and a flurry of other energy proposals expected in the coming months, Europe has an incredible opportunity to lead — not just domestically but internationally — when it comes to reducing oil and gas methane emissions.

This is the single most effective thing we can do to limit temperature rise in the near term as we transition to a climate neutral future over the coming decades.

Europe’s leadership on methane emissions would be based on its market position as the largest importer of internationally traded gas in the world, as well as its strong technical expertise and ambition for climate action.

Unlike some other issues where policy objectives can run up against the realities of international politics, Europe’s market position provides the EU with leverage to shape behavior and actions beyond its borders.

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

BP, Shell and investment giants call for Texas zero flaring regulations. Will others follow?

The first time I saw a natural gas flare in the oilfield was in 2015. Our team at Environmental Defense Fund was beginning to study methane emissions and collaborate with companies to solve the problem. Early one morning, we loaded into a van with industry collaborators and technology entrepreneurs, venturing out into the Eagle Ford Shale in south Texas.

Outside the van windows, flares dotted the landscape. A company representative explained that natural gas, or methane, was being burned on the spot rather than sent on for productive use in the economy. Why? Because there was no infrastructure in place to handle the gas coming from the region’s wells, most of which were built to produce only oil for market.

The good news, he explained, was that the problem was just temporary. Infrastructure would soon catch up with oil well drilling. The flares would soon be extinguished for good.

But more than five years later, flares are still burning nonstop.

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