Energy Exchange

Satellites and state regulators: New data spotlights extreme emissions and need for action in nation’s largest oilfield

By Jon Goldstein and Colin Leyden

This week a study drawing on nearly a year’s worth of satellite data revealed that Permian methane emissions are the highest ever measured from a U.S. oil and gas basin.

As the federal government continues its rollback of methane safeguards, public attention is now trained on policymakers and companies in Texas and New Mexico — two leading oil producing states that straddle the Permian Basin.

While New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham forges ahead on nation-leading rules to curb oil and gas methane waste and pollution, state leaders in Texas have yet to get serious about a problem that could undermine the industry’s viability in an economy that increasingly prioritizes cleaner sources of energy.

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

It’s time for the Texas Railroad Commission to curb flaring to prevent waste, protect property rights

This piece originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle

The Texas Railroad Commission has a unique chance to save the state’s oil and gas industry from one of its own worst habits — setting fire to over 100 billion cubic feet of natural gas each year, transforming a valuable asset into waste and pollution with zero benefit to anyone. Now, as commissioners eye production cuts in response to collapsing oil prices, they also have an opportunity to stem the profligate practice known as flaring.

The measure under consideration is called proration. Last used in the 1970s, it allows the commission to set a monthly production ceiling equal to market demand, with shares allocated among the state’s producers based on a variety of factors. Often described as a way to raise prices by limiting supply, authority for proration actually comes from the commission’s statutory obligation to prevent the waste of natural resources and protect property rights.

Flaring, of course, is the very definition of waste. Since 2013, operators in Texas have burned off roughly a trillion cubic feet of natural gas — enough to meet the yearly needs of every Texas home three times over. In 2019, Permian operators alone flared almost 300 billion cubic feet of gas, sending over a million dollars a day up in smoke.

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

New data finds alarming levels of methane emissions in the Permian, posing long-term risk for oil and gas portfolios

Investors managing oil and gas portfolios are contending with major disruption as two interrelated crises play out: the global COVID-19 pandemic and extreme volatility in the price of oil. Yet even before these events, cracks were showing in the sector’s financial footing. Pressure has been rising on industry to improve returns, while demand to deliver on Environmental Societal Governance initiatives has never been higher.

Into this mix comes new data from scientists working with EDF’s PermianMAP initiative showing that methane emissions in the Permian Basin, the world’s largest oil field, is nearly three times the rate reported in Environmental Protection Agency’s nationwide statistics.

The 3.5% loss rate estimated in the data area is roughly 15 times higher than reduction targets set by leading producers, and significantly higher than many companies have reported. It translates to 1.4 million tons of wasted gas each year, enough to meet the annual natural gas needs of every home in Dallas and Houston combined.

The findings surface a material risk to oil and gas investors and to the future of natural gas from the Permian Basin. At current emissions rates from the basin, burning Permian natural gas for electricity does more near-term climate damage than coal.

A year from now, the U.S. oil and gas sector may look very different for many of the independent operators who make up a large portion of Permian producers. Withstanding this period of economic turbulence will require companies to make tough decisions. Yet even in this time of crisis, operators must keep an eye on future market demands, operational excellence and climate performance.

Permian study findings

The Permian sprawls across West Texas and New Mexico and has more than 100,000 operating well sites. Between October 2019 and March 2020, EDF scientists collaborated with academic institutions to collect data using tower-based monitors, ground-based mobile sensors, helicopters and fixed wing aircraft across a 10,000-square-kilometer study area responsible for 40% of Permian production.

The estimated 3.5% leak rate reflected in the new data stands in stark contrast to the .20% leakage rate agreed to by the 13 of the world’s largest operators in the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, representing 30% of global oil and gas production. Furthermore, the emissions rate seen in the Permian is more than 10 times the methane intensity of 0.29% that OGCI has been reporting for 2018.

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Also posted in Air Quality, Methane, Methane regulatons, New Mexico, PermianMAP / Comments are closed

Public health crisis underscores need to protect vulnerable Texans. Here’s how the PUC is responding.

As Texans contend with the threat of the COVID-19 virus and an economic downturn, the state’s Public Utility Commission has adopted a proposal to prevent customers from having their power shut off in the midst of the current crisis.

Chairman DeAnn Walker initially put forward a set of policies on Tuesday to protect the state’s most vulnerable while keeping our competitive electricity market healthy and resilient. Today, the PUC advanced those policies with some changes.

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

Report shows Texas leadership on solar and wind is helping safeguard our power grid

Last summer, Texas’ electric grid was put to the test by scorching temperatures that sent power demand soaring and raised the specter of potential brownouts. Thankfully, the grid did what it was designed to do and pulled through without any major issues.

This week, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas released its projection for how we’ll fare this summer. Thanks to massive growth of solar and wind resources made possible by Texas’ competitive electricity market, the outlook is much improved.

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Also posted in Clean Energy, Solar Energy, Wind Energy / Comments are closed

Methane regulations can help transform Mexico’s energy sector

One year ago this week, Mexico took an immense step forward by passing the world’s most comprehensive regulations to reduce oil and gas methane emissions. Since then, oil and gas companies and the Mexican government have been collaborating to develop concrete plans to make this happen and to ensure that the country is on track to deliver on its climate goals. In June 2016 Mexico, along with the US and Canada, committed to reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40-45% by 2025, a target that is in line with the stated goals of the United Nations’ Convention on Climate Change.

But, is this enough? That is a question Mexico’s government and its national oil company, Pemex, should be asking today, because the country deserves more.

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