Five Key Findings from a New Report on Flaring in Texas
Wednesday, February 19, 2020
This week, Texas Railroad Commissioner (RRC) Ryan Sitton publicly released his first report on flaring in the state of Texas. The 2020 Texas Natural Gas Flaring Report highlights how oil produced here in Texas has a lower environmental footprint than our global competitors, and flared volumes in the 1950s were actually greater than they are today. Texans for Natural Gas has boiled down the report into five key findings:
1. Texas, and the United States, rank far lower in flaring intensity than other major oil and natural gas producers.
Both the United States’ and Texas’ flaring intensities sit below the world flaring intensity average. Russia, Iraq and Iran have flaring intensities significantly above the state of Texas and the world national average. The report notes that “other nations are flaring at levels four times higher than Texas …” (emphasis added)
Commissioner Sitton’s report findings align with a Texans for Natural Gas analysis from last year, which examined methane and flaring intensity in the Permian Basin compared to the world. That analysis found that the Permian Basin ranks significantly lower than many other major oil and gas producers, including Iran and Venezuela.
2. Texas is responsible for less than 3% of the world’s flaring.
The finding is particularly remarkable, as Texas produces more than 4% of the world’s oil and more than 40% of U.S. oil. Even as the largest oil producing country in the world – the U.S. produces nearly 11% of the world’s oil – the U.S. only represents about 8.5% of world flaring. The Permian Basin, which includes parts of Texas and New Mexico, is also the world’s highest producing oilfield.
3. Flaring intensity rates are at historic lows.
Compared to other points in the history of Texas oil and gas production, current flaring levels are relatively low, according to historical data. Flaring intensity in Texas peaked in the early 1950s, touching 0.30 (Mcf/Bbl). In comparison, in 2017, flaring intensity was 0.08 (Mcf/Bbl). Even as flaring intensity rates may have trended slightly upwards since the 1980s, flaring intensity in the last ten years of the RRC’s data set (ending in 2017) has shown flaring intensity has largely stabilized, if not declining.
4. Suddenly forcing flaring reductions in Texas could actually increase flaring globally.
Dramatic regulatory measures on flaring may result in negative effects not only on the Texas economy, but could actually increase flaring by volume globally. Commissioner Sitton noted that if Texas producers were suddenly forced to shutter operations in order to curb emissions, those barrels would likely be replaced in the global market by other countries, which in turn could increase global flaring volumes. Indeed, to meet world energy needs, production would likely shift to countries with higher flaring intensities than the state of Texas.
According to the report, bans or significant restrictions could “have a chilling effect on Texas energy development with no quantifiable benefit to Texans or the world… negatively [impacting] jobs and the economy not just in Texas, but nationwide.” (emphasis added)
5. New pipelines are expected to reduce flaring considerably in Texas
Though production in the Permian Basin has increased dramatically in the last decade, infrastructure has not yet kept pace. New infrastructure – from gas processing facilities to pipelines – could decrease regular flaring within Texas. In fact, the Sitton report observes that with scheduled pipeline capacity expected to come online the next 18 months, flaring is expected to decrease anywhere from 50,000 to 150,000 Mcf/d.