Selected category: Natural gas

Powering Texas: Big, Clean, Market-Driven Changes are Already Underfoot

By: Peter Sopher, policy analyst, clean energy, and Sarah Ryan, clean energy consultant

wind-364996_640 pixabayOver the past century, the electric grid in the United States has experienced only minor changes. There is evidence, however, the power sector is changing. We are moving away from traditional coal generation and toward alternative, cleaner energy sources. And despite our state being primarily known for oil and gas, Texas is no exception.

In fact, Texas’ electricity sector has been trending cleaner over the past decades, driven by deregulation of the electricity market, the development of the massive highway of transmission lines built to carry West Texas wind to cities throughout the state – the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ), and technological progress. Basically, once the market was opened up to competition, the more economic options – which also happen to be cleaner – began to gain a foothold. And there’s no stopping this train.

Where we are and where we’re going

To start, the declining use of fossil fuels to power our lives is perhaps the most significant change in Texas. As shown in Figure 1 below, fossil fuels’ (coal and gas’) proportion of the state’s electricity generation mix shrunk from 88 percent in 2002 to 82 percent in 2013. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Power Plan, ERCOT, Renewable Energy, Solar, Wind| Leave a comment

Oil & Gas Industry Mangles More Facts, Turns EDF Study Results Upside Down

By: Mark Brownstein, Vice President, US Climate and Energy

Barnett graphic high res

Click to enlarge.

Here we go again.

A new set of peer-reviewed scientific papers pointing to 50 percent higher than estimated regional methane emissions from oil and gas operations in Texas were published this week. And like clockwork, the oil and gas industry’s public relations machine, Energy In Depth, proclaimed that rising emissions are actually falling, and that the industry’s meager voluntary efforts are responsible.

This is, of course, wrong on both counts. In fact, it’s a willful misrepresentation of the findings.

First, the assertion that emissions are going down is flat wrong. EPA’s latest inventory released in April reports that in 2013 the oil and gas industry released more than 7.3 million metric tons of methane into the atmosphere from their operations—a three percent increase over 2012—making it the largest industrial source of methane pollution. So much for those voluntary efforts. Read More »

Also posted in Barnett Shale, Flare emissions| Comments are closed

New Research Finds Higher Methane Emissions, Reduction Opportunities in Barnett Shale Region

By: Steve Hamburg, Chief Scientist

Methane emissions from vast oil and gas operations in the densely populated Barnett Shale region of Texas are 50 percent higher than estimates based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) greenhouse gas inventory, according to a series of 11 new papers published today in Environmental Science & Technology.

The majority of these emissions are from a small but widespread number of sources across the region’s oil and gas supply chain. These emissions come from the sort of leaks and equipment malfunctions that are relatively easy to prevent with proper and frequent monitoring and repair practices.

The sprawling Barnett region, fanning out westward from the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth, contains about 30,000 oil and gas wells, 275 compressor stations, and 40 processing plants. It is one of the country’s largest production areas, responsible for 7 percent of total U.S. natural gas output.

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A Neighborly Approach to Cleaning the Air in South Texas

Para leer este artículo en español, haga clic aquí.

Is that flare operating efficiently? Is it dangerous to my health? Whom do I ask? Whom do I tell? These are the types of questions an emerging workshop developed by EDF and RGISC aims to answer.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration recently ranked the Eagle Ford Shale play as the nation’s largest oil field. But with oil wells often comes wasted gas, something Texas knows all too well. A huge portion of the gas pulled from oil wells in the Eagle Ford is burned away— often sending damaging pollutants into our environment.

An investigative report published in the San Antonio Express-News last year found “the rate of Eagle Ford flaring was 10 times higher than the combined rate of the state's other oil fields.” The same researchers found that from 2009 through the first seven months of 2014 oil and gas operators in the Eagle Ford region wasted about 94 billion cubic feet of natural gas – roughly enough gas to serve the heating and cooking needs of all the homes in San Antonio over four years. Excessive or improper flaring is not only a waste of a valuable resource, but can also have harmful health effects and damage the environment.  Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Environment, Flare emissions, Oil| Tagged | Comments are closed

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 »

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Reducing Drilling Pollution—Wyoming Did It, No Big Deal. Will Texas?

ozonegraphThe technological advances that led to the “shale revolution” have undoubtedly had a large economic impact on the Texas economy – something state leaders and the oil and gas industry are never shy about pointing out. But the impact drilling has on air quality and public health, that’s something energy-friendly Texas has not been so quick to recognize.

When not managed responsibly, drilling operations can contribute to the formation of ozone, also commonly known as smog. At certain concentrations, this pollution can trigger asthma attacks and cause other severe respiratory illnesses.

San Antonio is one place that’s seeing the clear connection between drilling and lower air quality, thanks to increased drilling just south of the city from the Eagle Ford Shale region. Before 2008, ozone levels in San Antonio had been steadily dropping, but when the shale revolution hit and drilling increased, regional ozone readings started going up.  In fact, based on air quality monitor readings from the last three years, San Antonio’s air quality is the 2nd worst in the state.  This correlation between drilling and ozone levels has been documented by The University of Texas and the Alamo Area Council of Governments, both of which concluded oil and gas activity in the Eagle Ford Shale is materially impacting ozone levels in San Antonio. Read More »

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