Energy Exchange

As Texas fails to stop flaring, EPA must act

Routine flaring in Texas is, well, too routine. It’s wasteful, harmful for health and the climate, and getting permission to burn gas instead of finding a productive use for it is far too easy in our state. Over 1 trillion cubic feet of Texas gas have been vented or flared by operators in the past decade — as much gas as 14 million Texas households use in an entire year.

Under mounting pressure from investors, communities and oil and gas operators, factions of industry have made recent public commitments to reduce this wasteful practice. For example, the Texas Methane and Flaring Coalition announced a collective goal to end routine flaring in Texas by 2030.

This may sound like progress, but in reality it’s yet another decade of wasteful flaring and a pledge that comes with no commitment to the regulatory changes vital to make it happen statewide. We can’t wait that long.

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Posted in Colorado, Methane, Methane regulatons, New Mexico, Texas / Comments are closed

Texas forms new group to weigh pros, cons of repurposing oilfield wastewater

Some Texas leaders and oil and gas industry advocates have for years promoted the idea that produced water — the wastewater generated through oil and gas development — has a role to play in meeting broad water needs in our state. However, the state has a limited understanding of the chemicals in this wastewater and how programs to reuse it outside the oilfield could be practiced safely, if at all.

Acknowledging the necessity to better understand treatment needs, economic challenges, and public health and environmental risks of industry’s wastewater, the Texas Legislature recently passed Senate Bill 601, establishing a Texas Produced Water Consortium. The consortium will be housed at Texas Tech University, and will bring together a wide swath of agency advisors, technical experts and key stakeholders to consider these issues and produce a report with recommendations over the next year. The group is charged with suggesting legal and regulatory changes to better enable beneficial uses, identifying pilot projects and assessing the economics of using produced water both efficiently but also in a way that protects public health and the environment.

Answering these questions will be no easy feat, and Texas should definitely not encourage beneficial reuse until it can confidently answer tough questions about safety.

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Posted in Natural Gas, produced water / Comments are closed

If we’re not careful, EPA’s new water reuse plan could lead to more pollution

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency released details of a new plan that aims to address concerns about future water shortages. The Water Reuse Action Plan suggests that by recycling and reusing more wastewater, we can “improve the availability of freshwater” and avoid a water access crisis.

There are certainly a number of opportunities we can and should seize to make better use of our water resources, but the plan leaves out a lot of crucially important details that must be a part of any truly sustainable water plan.

One of the biggest concerns EDF has is how the plan frames (or, more specifically doesn’t frame) important issues with reusing the oil and gas industry’s wastewater.

Oil and gas wastewater is extremely complicated. It’s very salty and it can contain radioactive chemicals from deep underground, toxic substances used in the drilling process, and a slew of other concerning pollutants. What’s in the water varies from day-to-day, well site-to-well site and state-to-state, which makes it even more difficult to set any kind of safety standard for how to treat it.

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Posted in Natural Gas, produced water, Water / Tagged | Comments are closed

Clean water regulators at the brink — Changes to the Clean Water Act spell trouble for New Mexico

Earlier this year, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its proposal to dismantle significant portions of the Clean Water Act. Historic federal protections for some rivers and streams and wetlands will no longer be there — essentially allowing polluters to dump untold amounts of waste into our waterways unless state provisions stop them.

The decision could generate unknown repercussions to waterways across the country, and perhaps no state is more vulnerable than New Mexico.

The reason? New Mexico has very few surface water protections of its own, which means without federal standards, the state is facing an uphill battle to develop the tools it needs in order to step in and prevent polluters from contaminating water.

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Posted in Natural Gas, New Mexico, produced water, produced water / Tagged | Comments are closed

Trump’s EPA may weaken restrictions on disposal of oilfield wastewater — here’s what you need to know

Many Americans are aware that we are experiencing a major energy boom. But what many folks may not realize is that with this increase in oil and gas, also comes an increase in waste – specifically wastewater. In fact, for every barrel of oil produced wells can generate 10 times as much chemical-laden wastewater. All told, the industry produces over 900 billion gallons of wastewater a year, and we know very little about the chemicals in it.

Traditionally, companies have pumped this wastewater deep underground, but the growing volume is creating new challenges– leading many to wonder whether there may be different options for managing or reusing it. One of those options is treatment and discharge to rivers or streams.

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Posted in produced water, Water / Tagged | Comments are closed

Three things to know ahead of EPA’s oil and gas wastewater meeting

Tomorrow, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold a special meeting to update the public about what the agency has learned since launching an examination into our nation’s current practices for handling wastewater from the oil and gas industry.

This research endeavor comes at a very salient time. The volume of wastewater generated by onshore oil and gas development is growing larger by the day – with production reaching nearly 900 billion gallons a year. This massive influx is forcing states, companies and other stakeholders to seriously think about whether our current methods for handling this wastewater are the best methods for the future based on a number of shifting dynamics.

The meeting tomorrow will allow agency officials to provide updates about what they’ve learned so far, and will give energy experts and other interested stakeholders the opportunity to weigh in with additional intel and perspectives. Here are three things to keep in mind ahead of tomorrow’s hearing. Read More »

Posted in Natural Gas, produced water, Water / Tagged | Comments are closed