(June 1, 2020)
The Texas Railroad Commission’s (RRC) release of a report analyzing natural gas flaring trends has intensified the debate on what should be done to curb the practice.
The document, the first of its kind on flaring trends, argues that Texas-based oil producers are much more efficient when it comes to flaring natural gas than their competitors in other countries. However, critics argue that the regulator is using industry-friendly measurements to justify its reluctance to adopt more stringent restrictions.
Flaring occurs when oil producers burn off natural gas produced as a byproduct of oil drilling. Companies see this as a more economically viable option to transporting the gas to market, either due to an absence of pipeline capacity or a lack of demand for the product. Estimates suggest that enough gas is flared in Texas to power the state’s energy needs.
The figures presented in the Texas Railroad Commission’s report suggest that oil producers in the Lone Star State are already performing well when it comes to restricting flaring. Using a measurement that compares the number of barrels of oil produced with the amount of natural gas flared, known as “flaring intensity,” the report concluded that producers in Texas are more efficient than those operating in other parts of the United States.
It also argues that the U.S. is far ahead of other energy-producing nations, like Iran and Iraq, on the issue of limiting natural gas flaring. The report found that Texas flares 0.09 million cubic feet (Mcf) of natural gas for every barrel of oil produced. This compares favorably to a global average of 0.14 Mcf, and 0.37 Mcf in Iran and Iraq.