Energy Exchange

Texas oil and gas regulators offer a weak fix to flaring

This post was originally published in The Dallas Morning News

After months of promising talk about curbing the oil and gas industry’s wasteful and polluting flaring habit, the Texas Railroad Commission unveiled a plan that does little to fix the problem. Despite calls from mineral owners, the public and even some in the industry itself to end routine flaring, the commission instead embraced largely empty measures advanced by an oil and gas trade group.

Flaring, setting fire to natural gas produced as an oil byproduct, is a colossal waste of resources and releases both carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. In recent years, the Railroad Commission has served as little more than a rubber stamp for oil and gas flaring in Texas. Since 2013, operators have obtained 35,000 flaring permits without a single denial.

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Posted in Air Quality, Methane, Methane regulatons, Natural Gas, Texas / Comments are closed

Zero routine flaring by 2025 and the Texas policy needed to get there

Routine flaring at oil and gas production sites in Texas has been a chronic issue for years, as the rampant process burns off viable fuel product while emitting carbon dioxide, methane and toxic pollutant emissions into the atmosphere. Yet momentum for eliminating the practice is building among investors, operators and landowners, pushing the state’s regulatory body, the Texas Railroad Commission, to consider new flaring policy.

Several major operators, such as Chevron and Pioneer, have already significantly reduced flaring rates to less than 1%. In a recent blog touting Exxon Mobil’s greatly improved Permian flaring performance, the operator stated their experience, “demonstrates that zero routine flaring is within everyone’s reach.”

But as J.P. Morgan Asset Management stated in a recent flaring report, “voluntary operator actions to reduce routine flaring, while necessary, have proven insufficient to deliver on the industry’s full potential,” while reiterating “zero routine flaring by 2025 represents an important and achievable goal.” In order to achieve this goal, policymakers must step in to ensure widespread adoption and outline actionable goals.

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Posted in Air Quality, Methane, Methane regulatons, Natural Gas, Texas / Comments are closed

New Permian data show how worst offenders prevent progress on flaring

Texas’ Permian Basin isn’t just the site of the world’s biggest oil boom. It’s also the source of one of the country’s most unnecessary wastes of energy and associated air pollution. The burning off (flaring) and intentional release (venting) of natural gas has proven to be a black eye Permian producers can’t shake. A previous EDF analysis of 2014-2015 data found that operators in the Permian Basin flared and wasted more than 45 Bcf of natural gas in 2015 alone, enough to serve all 400,000 households in Texas Permian counties for two and a half years.

Production since then has boomed, and the Permian’s flaring problem has too. The burning off of associated gas is predicted to only get worse through 2019, and analysts predict the entire Permian Basin could flare as much as 1 Bcf a day in the coming year. That’s nearly four times the amount of gas produced by the Gulf of Mexico’s most productive gas facility.

EDF has recently analyzed the 2018 flaring data released by the Railroad Commission of Texas, the state’s oil and gas regulator, and beyond illustrating the scale of the problem – operators burned enough gas to serve all the heating and cooking needs of the state’s seven largest cities – the numbers tell us two main things:

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Posted in General / Comments are closed

Satellite data confirms Permian gas flaring is double what companies report

A new analysis of satellite data reveals natural gas waste and pollution in the Texas Permian Basin is two times higher than what industry reports to the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC). In 2017 alone, Permian oil and gas operators burned enough gas to serve all the heating and cooking needs of the state’s seven largest cities. That’s roughly $322 million dollars of natural gas that went up in smoke.

Using National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA) Earth Observation Group satellite data, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) analyzed flaring rates and volumes in the Permian for 2017. The results are eye-opening. The satellite data indicates Permian operators burned 104 billion cubic feet of natural gas—4.4 percent of all gas produced. However, industry only reported 55 billion cubic feet of gas burned to the RRC in that same year.

It gets worse. In the Delaware Basin portion of the Permian, which accounts for about half of all gas produced in the basin, satellite data shows operators burning almost eight percent of their gas. That means some individual operators are wasting even more.

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Posted in Natural Gas, Texas / Comments are closed

On pollution facts, don’t be fooled by rhetoric of oil and gas trade groups

Once again, a trade group funded by the oil and gas industry is trying to distort the facts on the industry’s pollution.

In a recent blog post, Texans for Natural Gas cherry picked government data in an attempt to argue against the need for policies that protect public health and the environment.

Posts like this – which take select pieces of data in order to make broad generalizations about industry’s progress toward reducing pollution – often fail to tell the whole story about the harmful emissions that warm the planet, jeopardize public health, and result in the massive waste of U.S. energy resources.

When reading industry-sponsored pollution assessments, there are a few crucial things to keep in mind.

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Posted in Air Quality, BLM Methane, Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

As Permian drilling booms, will the Texas Railroad Commission stand against wasted gas?

This piece originally appeared as an op-ed in the Midland Reporter-Telegram

The West Texas Permian oilfield is poised for rapid development in the next decade; the Energy Information Administration projects oil production in the Permian could grow 60 percent by the year 2030. But oil wells in Texas’ Permian Basin don’t just pump oil, they also produce large amounts of natural gas – which many companies aren’t equipped to handle.

That is posing a problem for Texas, as producers run out of capacity to move associated gas to market. Without reasonable action from the state’s oil and gas regulator, the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC), producers could resort to simply burning away excess gas – something we’ve seen in other oil fields where gas is not the primary production target.

This process, also known as flaring, is a recipe for widespread waste and pollution.

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Posted in Methane, Natural Gas, Texas / Comments are closed