Energy Exchange

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, Methane regulatons, Texas / Comments are closed

Tax credits for carbon capture? Not without these 3 important rules.

By Adam Peltz and Scott Anderson

Removing carbon emissions from the air — a process known as carbon capture, utilization and sequestration — is one of the most important things we can do to battle climate change, and the Internal Revenue Service is currently developing regulations around tax incentives that could make or break the success of U.S. efforts to do this effectively.

CCUS is a suite of technologies that can capture carbon dioxide from the air and industrial sources. Companies can either reuse carbon dioxide or permanently store it in deep underground rock formations. The International Energy Agency estimates that by 2050, 9% of all necessary climate mitigation will come from CCUS activities. In other words, most versions of a carbon neutral economy will include a healthy amount of capturing carbon dioxide and putting it underground.

But CCUS can be a climate solution only if the carbon is securely stored once removed from the atmosphere. Any regulation or tax incentive offered to companies who practice CCUS must assure that.

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Also posted in Carbon capture, Climate / Comments are closed

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, Methane regulatons, 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, Methane / Comments are closed

Rolling blackouts in California prove conventional power plants need to become extinct

On Monday this week, I got into my electric car and the following image popped up.

Image courtesy of electrek

My car was encouraging me to shift my charging patterns. Why?

California, along with large chunks of the rest of the West, is experiencing one of the worst heat storms on record. The weather pattern was abnormal, with less wind to cool people off at night. Since the heat storm hit most of the West, the ability to import power from our neighbors was also greatly compromised. The weather pattern also created over 11,000 lightning strikes, which sparked several wildfires throughout the state. In turn, those wildfires resulted in changed grid operations. Last, with more people staying home due to the Covid-19 pandemic, energy demands are higher and different than normal. As a result of all of these factors, the state’s electric grid operator issued an emergency alert, which triggered the state’s first rolling blackout in nearly two decades.

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Also posted in Air Quality, California, Electric Vehicles / 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, Methane regulatons, Texas / Comments are closed