The Texas Railroad Commission permitted oil and gas producers to destroy $750 million worth of natural gas in a single year, and despite the pleas of royalty owners and environmentalists, it allows that waste to continue.
The three elected officials who supervise the oil and gas industry in Texas are mandated to promote efficiency and minimize waste but have issued permits allowing drillers to burn billions of dollars’ worth of natural gas through a process called flaring over the past seven years.
Last week, commissioners finally began considering new rules to stop it, but it doesn’t look good.
First, a quick lesson on flaring. Oil wells also produce natural gas, much to the chagrin of the driller who wants only oil. This associated gas must go somewhere, and when there are no pipelines, drillers ask the Railroad Commission to burn it off with flares.
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Anyone driving through South or West Texas at night has seen these huge flames. Refineries also use flares to burn off dangerous gases, so they also are common along the Houston Ship Channel.
Natural gas contains methane, a gas six times more harmful to the climate than carbon dioxide. Getting rid of methane is essential, and capturing it can generate additional revenue. But lately, drillers have been in such a rush to pump oil, they are not waiting for gas pipelines.
The commission almost never has rejected a flaring permit. Since the fracking revolution kicked off in 2013, commissioners have allowed flaring to increase four-fold, and drillers have burned enough gas to meet Texas’ power, heating and industrial needs for three years, state records show.
The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a nonpartisan group that researches industry trends, calculated Texas drillers flared gas worth $749.9 million in 2018 alone.
“The RRC’s duty to address waste in oil and gas production is not only a legal requirement but also a practical imperative that is becoming more and more critical for the financial future of Texas,” the group concluded. “It needs to recalibrate itself and align its actions with its critical responsibility to protect the public.”
Commission Chair Wayne Christian…