Energy Exchange

The connection between jobs and addressing orphan oil and gas wells

All across the country right now, there are tens of thousands of officially documented “orphan” oil and gas wells creating environmental hazards for their communities. These are wells that the oil and gas industry walked away from because they became uneconomic over time. Rather than properly sealing them, they left state and federal taxpayers holding the bag. These wells can be big sources of air, water and climate pollution if left unaddressed.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions more of these inactive, unplugged wells that need to be addressed. This is not to mention the potential for adding hundreds of thousands of currently active wells to the orphan well inventory as oil and gas producers struggle to survive the downturn in petroleum prices.

Luckily, efforts are underway in Congress and within the presidential transition plan to address these orphan wells. In his economic plan, President-elect Joe Biden laid out his vision for a cleaner and healthier future.

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Also posted in Air Quality, Methane, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas / Comments are closed

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, Methane regulatons, New Mexico, Texas / Comments are closed

Two chemicals that remind us why we should exercise caution with the oil industry’s wastewater

Over the past few years, we’ve written a lot about the wastewater generated from oil and gas production — specifically, how little is known about what’s in it and the potential risks of exposure.

But as states try to set standards for how to safely treat and dispose of this waste, there are two chemicals in particular that deserve to be among the regulatory priorities.

The first is a class of synthetic chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — PFAS for short. Members of this class, often referred to as “forever chemicals” because they are highly persistent in the environment, are known to cause adverse health impacts in humans. This can include a range of symptoms, including damage to the immune system, low infant birth weights and cancer.

The second chemical is 1,4-dioxane. Short-term exposure to this carcinogen can cause immediate health impacts, like eye, nose and throat irritation and impaired lung function. Prolonged exposure can lead to liver and kidney damage, as well as cancer.

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Also posted in Colorado, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, produced water, Texas / Comments are closed

New York regulators must act on Con Edison’s contract with Mountain Valley Pipeline

The CEO of New York gas utility Con Edison recently made the bold statement that natural gas is “no longer…part of the longer-term view” in the transition to a clean energy economy, and that he does not expect the company to make additional investments in natural gas pipelines. Many of the company’s actions — from its clean energy commitment, to its framework for pursuing non-pipe alternatives — place it on a path toward meeting that vision. But Con Ed’s investment and contract with Mountain Valley Pipeline call into question that bold statement and demand further scrutiny from the New York Public Service Commission.

In 2016, Con Ed signed a 20-year contract for service on Mountain Valley Pipeline, a planned 300-mile pipeline in West Virginia and Virginia. Mountain Valley would connect with other pipelines on the East Coast to transport natural gas from the Marcellus Shale for ultimate delivery to the New York region. Since Con Ed entered the contract, the pipeline has been plagued by environmental and economic risks and significant legal challenges, and it is still not in service.

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Also posted in New York / 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, Methane regulatons, 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, Methane regulatons / Comments are closed