Texas Clean Air Matters

In Permian, company leadership and state standards are critical for reducing oil and gas methane emissions

By Jon Goldstein and Colin Leyden 

This May, ExxonMobil, the world’s largest publicly traded oil and gas company, announced targets to limit methane waste from its global operations. We’ve also seen commitments to cut methane from a range of leading companies like BP and others.

But as more companies step forward with methane targets, it begs the question: Is voluntary action from companies enough to move the needle on methane? A look at what could become the world’s largest oil field points to the answer being a solid no.

A Permian problem

The Permian Basin has become a major focus of industry development, with Exxon itself stating it plans to triple its presence there by 2025. According to IHS Markit, the Permian contains 60-70 billion barrels of recoverable oil, which is worth approximately $3.3 trillion at current prices. The Permian is in the running to become the world’s largest oil field over the next decade. Read More »

Also posted in Methane, Natural gas / 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.

Read More »

Also posted in Flare emissions, Methane, Natural gas / 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, Natural gas, 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, Natural gas, 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 Natural gas / Comments are closed

Report identifies ways to reduce water contamination from oil and gas development in Texas

By: Nichole Saunders

new report from the Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST) is shedding more light on what we know and don’t know about the potential health and environmental impacts caused by oil and gas development in Texas.

The report, the first of-its-kind authored by experts across the state, looks at all areas of concern related to oil and gas – including seismicity, air pollution, land and traffic issues  – but TAMEST’s observations about the risks to water are especially noteworthy.

Tracking and reducing spills and leaks

Wastewater that comes out of an oil or gas well is usually extremely salty and can be laden with chemicals, and TAMEST notes this wastewater can contaminate soil and harm vegetation. In fact, according to the report,  spilling or leaking wastewater and other substances is the most likely pathway for surface water contamination from oil and gas development in Texas. Yet Texas is the only major state that doesn’t require companies to report their produced water spills. The report suggests that Texas should consider improving spill reporting policies in order to better understand where spills are happening, and what is causing them. Read More »

Also posted in Environment / Read 1 Response