Author Archives: Colin Leyden

New Texas Permian oil and gas flaring report reveals excessive gas waste and major gaps in operator flaring practices

As companies flock to West Texas’ Permian Basin to cheaply drill for and extract oil and gas, some operators are flooding the night sky with natural gas flares, polluting the air with unhealthy and climate-altering pollutants, and wasting copious amounts of this important, domestic energy resource.

The Permian Basin, which stretches across 75,000 square miles in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico, is in the midst of one of the largest energy booms of the century. An estimated 60-70 billion barrels of recoverable oil is located in the area, which is worth roughly $3.3 trillion at current prices, according to IHS Markit. Oil isn’t the only resource in abundant supply. EIA estimates that operators in the Permian are producing 7.3 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. But a rush to produce higher value oil has some Permian drillers simply flaring the gas instead of investing in gathering and pipeline infrastructure.

A new EDF flaring report, released this week, has uncovered a wide discrepancy between flaring rates among the top 15 oil and gas producers working in the Texas Permian Basin. Some of the oil and gas producers studied in the report are wasting close to 10 percent of their produced gas due to flaring practices, highlighting the fact that the oil and gas industry continues to struggle to control natural gas waste. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Flare emissions, Methane, Natural gas, Oil, Ozone| Leave a comment

Texas should listen to its own scientific task force about methane

Map of Texas oil and gas wells that would have been covered under recently-delayed EPA methane rules.

This post originally appeared on TribTalk.org.

new report from the Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST) Shale Task Force underscores the problem of methane emissions from Texas’ oil and gas industry.

When burned, natural gas has about half the CO2 emissions of coal (that’s good!), but the release of methane into the atmosphere can greatly erode that benefit. TAMEST explains that methane leak rates can greatly impact the overall greenhouse gas footprint of natural gas and reduce the benefit of burning natural gas versus coal. As TAMEST puts it, “Although the greenhouse gas footprint of natural gas combustion is lower than the footprint associated with coal or petroleum combustion, emissions along the supply chain of natural gas can change this footprint.”

The report notes that when industry emits methane, it also emits other hazardous air pollutants that could jeopardize public health — and calls for more research to better understand how these emissions could be harming communities near oil and gas developments. Read More »

Posted in Methane, Natural gas, Oil, Ozone| Comments are closed

Deep in the Heart of Texas…Methane is Leaking Every Day

In new footage captured just weeks ago, an ominous cloud of what looks like black smoke seeps from a pump jack deep in the heart of a Texas oil field. But there are no fire trucks rushing to the scene. No first responders in hazmat suits scrambling to uncover the source of this relentless dark cloud. This is because that black smoke depicted is actually methane, an invisible but dangerous climate pollutant.

If this scene looks familiar, it’s because not long ago, footage of a major methane gas leak in Southern California also made international headlines. That leak has since been plugged, but as the new infrared footage released today reveals, every single day methane continues to leak in massive quantities from oil and gas facilities across the country and here in Texas. Read More »

Posted in Methane, Natural gas| Comments are closed

Texas Takes Backseat Controlling Its Massive Methane Problem

3829465133_78b173bff0_bA new study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, finds that methane emissions from oil and gas facilities in North Texas’ Barnett Shale are likely as much as 90 percent higher than previous estimates based on data from the Environmental Protection Agency.

This is no small matter. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas rapidly accelerating the rate of climate change. But it’s also emitted with other harmful pollutants, like Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that contribute to smog levels, as well as the cancer causing compound benzene. One study estimates that oil and gas production in the Barnett Shale Region in Texas contributes 19,888 tons of VOCs per year while estimates for the Eagle Ford Shale region just south of San Antonio project oil and gas operations could produce up to 1,248 tons per day VOC by 2018. Both the DFW area and San Antonio are struggling with high smog levels.

And based on the findings of the new methane study, we now know that there are instances where the magnitude of oil and gas emissions is even higher than previously thought. That is especially troubling for the more than 6 million people living in the DFW area who are at risk of developing or exacerbating respiratory and other health problems as a result of this unnecessary air pollution. Unnecessary because recent analysis concludes that emissions can be drastically reduced by implementing cost-effective and “off the shelf” pollution reduction technologies and practices – begging the question: why has Texas, the leading oil and gas producing state, not been a leader on reducing this harmful pollution?

Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Barnett Shale, Clean Car Standards, Methane, Natural gas, Ozone, TCEQ| Read 1 Response

In San Antonio, Cleaner Air May Be on the Horizon

For many years, San Antonio’s air quality has been at a tipping point. With smog levels that just narrowly hovered beneath national limits for ozone pollution, the city is currently in competition for having some of the worst smog levels in Texas.

Ground-level ozone can cause asthma attacks and other illnesses—which means the state of San Antonio’s air quality is putting public health at risk.  That’s about to change thanks to new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards that set stronger limits on ozone levels—pushing smog-challenged cities like San Antonio to take action and clean up the air.   Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environment, Ozone, San Antonio| Read 2 Responses

Air Quality Poses Challenges and Opportunities for San Antonio’s New Mayor

SONY DSCTexans don’t always associate clean air with major urban areas, and for good reason. The heavy industrial activity, electric power plants, and vehicular traffic in big cities all combine to create ground level ozone, commonly known as smog. Increased ozone and smog has known negative impacts on human health, including causing asthma  attacks and other respiratory problems. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates ozone and sets guidelines for when a city is in compliance with air quality standards. Currently, San Antonio is technically in compliance with EPA ozone standards, but only by a quirk in how the agency’s compliance timelines work. A closer look actually shows the city has the second worst air quality of any urban area in Texas – second only to Dallas/Fort Worth.

The correlation between ozone and public health has spurred EPA to revise and strengthen its national ozone standards. If San Antonio continues with business as usual, it’s clear local air quality and public health will continue to suffer, and San Antonio will be officially designated as non-compliant with EPA standards. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Natural gas, Ozone| Tagged , , | Comments are closed
  • About the author

    Senior Manager, State Regulatory & Legislative Affairs – Natural Gas
    Colin oversees EDF’s efforts to improve environmental performance and oversight of oil and gas production activities in Texas. He manages technical experts and policy advocates, and works with state officials, industry partners, and NGOs.

  • About this Blog

    Confluence of SJR, Old, and Middle rivers

    Advocating for healthier air and cleaner energy in Texas through public education and policy influence.

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