Houston Chronicle

Environmentalists and the natural gas industry have issued contrasting accounts about flaring, the practice of burning off excess natural gas in the Permian Basin and other shale plays across the United States.

Industry, enviros contrasting accounts over flaring-oil and gas 360

Source: Houston Chronicle

Over the past week, the Washington, D.C.-based environmental group Earthworks and the industry-funded group Texans For Natural Gas released online statements that offer contrasting viewpoints of the issue.

In a public letter, Earthworks criticized the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state’s top environmental agency, as being lax on enforcement and “uncooperative” in response to citizen complaints about the issue.

Texans For Natural Gas posted a Tuesday morning report stating that methane emissions intensity, the amount of methane vented or flared for each barrel of oil equivalent produced, has fallen in the United States over the past seven years and remains at rates far below other nations such as Russia.

With natural gas viewed as a byproduct of drilling for much more valuable oil, companies that don’t have their wells connected to natural gas pipelines can receive permits to either release it into the atmosphere in practice known as venting or burn it off on site in another practice known as flaring.

Oil companies vented or flared a record 1.28 billion cubic of natural gas per day during 2018, a recent report from the Energy Information Administration shows. At the current market prices, that’s roughly $1 billion worth of natural gas burned off or wasted per year.

Texas oil wells accounted for 51 percent of the flaring and venting activity while oil wells in North Dakota accounted to 31 percent. Vented and flared natural gas increased to 1.25 percent of overall U.S. production from 0.84 percent reported in 2017.

In its public letter, Earthworks criticized TCEQ for failing to follow up on citizen complaints regarding flaring and venting in the Permian Basin and elsewhere across the state. The environmental group vowed to step up its pressure on the agency and that it would be attaching more videos and scientific information with future complaints.

Working with two partner organizations, the report released by Texans For Natural Gas went nation by nation comparing the amounts of natural gas vented or flared compared to crude oil production. Smaller nations with considerably smaller crude oil production such as Syria, Yemen and Mozambique had the worst rates.

Venezuela, where crude oil production has fallen amid strict U.S. sanctions to oust strongman Nicolas Maduro, ranked in 11th place for methane emissions intensity while Russia ranked in 35th place and the United States in 44th place.

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