Energy Exchange

Texas Public Utility Commission defends competitive markets, customer interests

The Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) might not be a household name, but electricity customers across Texas have plenty of reason to be thankful for its latest actions.

Over the past month, the PUC has made some key decisions to protect Texas’ competitive electricity markets and make sure all Texans have access to affordable and clean electric energy.

As we move toward the hot summer months and ERCOT projects record demand and potential grid alerts, these policy moves will hopefully be paired with further support of tools like distributed energy resources to ensure a reliable and resilient grid.

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Also posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response / Comments are closed

The oil industry’s wastewater is one of the biggest challenges facing Permian producers

This post originally appeared in the Midland Reporter Telegram. 

Nowhere is the current energy boom more apparent than in Midland, Texas. But with this dramatic growth in oil and gas also comes a growing amount of wastewater. Texas oil and gas companies alone produce over 300 billion gallons of wastewater a year, twice as much as any other state, and that volume is expected to increase. This is no ordinary water. In addition to the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process, it can contain radioactive materials and a number of naturally occurring pollutants – including high concentrations of salt that can kill plants and ruin soil for decades if not handled properly.

Most of the time, companies dispose of wastewater by reinjecting it deep underground. This is a cost-effective and largely environmentally sound solution. However, there is growing concern that this option may be less available or more costly in coming years due to a range of challenges from earthquakes to capacity. This, paired with growing demands for water, particularly in drought-stricken regions, is driving companies and policymakers to look at new options for disposing or reusing industry’s wastewater.

These newer options – while promising – are not without their own sets of risks. Read More »

Also posted in General, Natural Gas, produced water / Comments are closed

Satellites become valuable new tool for governments, industry to cut emissions

For years, people used satellites to observe the Earth’s climate. Now, orbital sensing offers a crucial new way to protect it, by giving us new abilities to identify, measure, and ultimately verify cuts in emissions of methane – a highly potent greenhouse gas.

Two new pieces of research led by EDF scientists demonstrate the growing potential of space-based monitoring tools, and offer a preview of things to come when EDF launches its own dedicated methane satellite in 2021.

Offshore Flaring in Mexico

First is a paper published this week in Geophysical Research Letters, explaining how researchers used space-based readings to calculate the enormous volume of natural gas being burned off (or “flared”) by oil and gas platforms in the Southern Gulf of Mexico. From 2005 and 2017, data from NASA’s Aura satellite show that operators flared as much as 710 billion cubic feet of gas per year.

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Also posted in Methane / Tagged | Comments are closed

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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Also posted in Natural Gas / Comments are closed

How oil & gas states did (and did not) protect land and water in 2018

By Adam Peltz & Nichole Saunders

Keeping an eye on what happens with domestic oil and gas regulation is a bit like herding cats. We’ve seen encouraging progress on air quality issues related to oil and gas, but an equally critical front that’s seen major action is protection of our land and water resources.

More than 30 states actively regulate oil and gas development but their practices and rules vary significantly. Add the recent attention around industry’s impact on local communities – from earthquakes and the risk of spills to increased traffic and local air pollution – and it’s easy to miss the big trends that dominated regulatory agendas in 2018.

EDF devotes a significant amount of time tracking this activity, and 2018 was a busy year. Over a dozen states completed rule updates and other types of improvements this year on a variety of topics.

Here are the big things we saw in 2018.

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Also posted in Aliso Canyon, California, Colorado, Methane, Natural Gas, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, produced water, produced water, State, Water, Wyoming / Tagged , , | Comments are closed

3 reasons Texas’ electric grid survived a summer that pushed its limits

As the hot summer approached, Texas leaders expressed concern about potential blackouts and brownouts. Yet, thoughtful planning, a functional electricity market and clean energy helped ensure the lights stayed on.

Power outage concerns

Hotter temperatures and continued population and commercial growth drove record electricity demand this past summer. Additionally, in early 2018, Luminant (now Vistra) shut down three large coal plants – all inefficient and highly-polluting – with a combined capacity of 4,200 megawatts (MW).

The shutdown of these power plants and other changes in the electricity market initially led the state’s electric grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), to forecast few electricity-making resources would be available beyond the amount customers would likely demand.

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Also posted in Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing, Grid Modernization, Regional Grid / Comments are closed