Texas Clean Air Matters

Fighting for the planet, one methane comment at a time

When a kid knocks at your door, you might expect a Girl Scout selling cookies or a Boy Scout selling popcorn. But recently, it was my 13 year-old neighbor, Pete Bates, asking me to sign a letter to fight methane pollution. I thought this was pretty neat, because while my day-to-day job is focused on reducing this pollution, it’s a pretty niche topic. That’s why I was so pleased to see Pete was interested in this topic and thought it was something worth getting engaged about.

These days, with the Trump administration’s constant attacks on our climate and clean air, it can be easy to be pessimistic. Hearing about Pete’s effort to make a difference gives me hope. I’m sure Pete and his generation will make the future bright, because they’ve already started.

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Also posted in Climate Change / Comments are closed

Texans for Natural Gas uses misleading data on methane in Texas

Recently, Texans for Natural Gas (TXNG) issued a report claiming methane emissions have drastically decreased in several of the largest natural gas producing counties in Texas from 2011 to 2016.

The notion of methane emissions rapidly declining across Texas during the largest U.S. oil and gas boom of the century is described in the report’s blog post as amazing, which in fact it would be if the report were accurate. It isn’t. The TXNG report doesn’t even come close to providing a complete representation of methane emissions across the featured Texas counties. TXNG claims methane emissions declined 51 percent in several of the state’s largest producing natural gas counties, and 39 percent across ten of the largest oil-producing counties.

And here’s what data is missing: methane emissions generated from onshore production and gathering. Simply put, the vast majority of emissions aren’t even included. (What’s even worse, their original report failed to disclose that the emission data referenced in TXNG’s blog post only accounted for methane emissions from large midstream  gas facilities.) The revised report’s claims about 2016 reductions in Midland County only account for emissions from six processing plants and compressor stations while ignoring the over 2,000 oil and gas wells. Drawing broad conclusions from a tiny fraction of facilities is shoddy analysis at best and deliberately misleading at worst.

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Also posted in Flare emissions, Methane, Oil / Comments are closed

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 »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Flare emissions, Methane, Oil, Ozone / Comments are closed

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 »

Also posted in Methane, Oil, Ozone / Comments are closed

When Trump’s agencies undermine small businesses supporting responsible energy

By: Ben Ratner

Every physician would tell you that regular check-ups are important for your health, to catch problems before they become big issues, and to let you know that everything is in working order. Regular check-ups are also important for the oil and natural gas industry, whose leading actors benefit from periodic site inspections for natural gas leaks, which let product go to waste and pollute the air our families breathe.

Unfortunately, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt slammed the brakes on these regular check-ups for methane emissions (the main component of natural gas), when EPA announced its intention to freeze for two years safeguards that include a national standard for twice annual leak detection inspections at new well pads. And mere hours later, the Bureau of Land Management suspended waste prevention standards on federal and tribal lands. While these actions might initially be popular among some in the oil & gas community in Texas, the long-term repercussions will be severe.

With commodity prices recovering and a wave of development expected in the Permian Basin, the leak detection requirements were to take effect in time to support responsible development of new resources. Read More »

Also posted in Oil / Comments are closed

As Oil and Gas Industry Goes Big in the Permian, Efforts to Tackle Emissions Will Be Telling

By Jon Goldstein and Ben Ratner

Much ink has been spilled recently about big new oil and gas investments in the Permian Basin across West Texas and Southeastern New Mexico. What some are dubbing “Permania” includes a more than $6 billion investment by ExxonMobil in New Mexico acreage and an almost $3 billion one by Noble Energy across the border in Texas, among others. But a large question remains: will these types of big bets also come with the needed investments to limit methane emissions?

It’s not just an academic question. The answer will go a long way toward revealing if industry actors plan to operate in a way that serves the best interest of local communities and taxpayers. Unfortunately, New Mexico is currently the worst in the nation for waste of natural gas resources from federal lands (such as those that are found in large parts of the state’s Permian Basin). Largely avoidable venting, flaring and leaks of natural gas from these sites also puts a big hole in taxpayers’ wallets, robbing New Mexico taxpayers of $100 million worth of their natural gas resources every year and depriving the state budget of millions more in royalty revenue that could be invested in urgent state needs like education.


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Also posted in Air Pollution, Methane, Oil, Uncategorized / Tagged , | Comments are closed