Flaring Natural Gas Is The Safer Environmental Option

Wed, July 31, 2019

Trapped in dense rock, it was once thought oil found in shale would never be profitable to produce. American innovation has changed that. Today, we produce millions of barrels of oil every day from shale through hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling.

The “shale revolution” has made our country the world leader in energy production, created hundreds of thousands of jobs, and provided affordable energy, economic growth and national security for all Americans.

“Flaring” is an important part of America’s rise to global energy dominance. Most flaring occurs when the well is first drilled, during facility maintenance or during unplanned events. It also happens when an oil well also produces natural gas and there is no pipeline available to transport it.

In these instances, without the option to flare (the limited, safe, controlled burning of natural gas at the well site), an oil well would have to shut down. Shutting a well down is expensive and time-consuming. It reduces the supply of oil and raises production costs, which leads to higher prices at the gas pump and on the store shelf for products made from crude oil, such as tires, sunglasses and trash bags.

In addition, flaring is the safer environmental option. Rather than “venting” the gas into the air, flaring burns the gas, which releases less pollution.

With the goal of flaring less gas, private companies are building thousands of miles of new pipelines. The impact can already be seen.

The rate of flaring in Texas is stable even as oil production dramatically increases. In March 2014, about 3.5% of excess gas was flared. In March 2019, just 3.1% was flared, even as production rose.

The shale revolution benefits every American, and flaring is a part of the process. As pipeline capacity grows and the oil and gas industry continues to innovate, flaring may someday be a thing of the past. Until then, we will ensure it is done safely and responsibly.

Wayne Christian is chairman of the Railroad Commission of Texas, which regulates Texas oil and gas production, including requests to flare.