You're Looking at Methane Emissions All Wrong, Industry Says

Tue, December 17, 2019

Although drillers in North America’s biggest oil field are burning off more natural gas than ever before, industry advocates say it’s not as bad as it looks.

Methane-emissions intensity in the Permian Basin plunged 64% in the past seven years, even as crude production surged, according to a report by Texans for Natural Gas, the Permian Basin Petroleum Association and the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association.

Emissions intensity is a measure of how much methane is burned in flares or allowed to waft off into the atmosphere for every barrel of crude produced. By that metric, if the Permian was a country, it would rank 45th worldwide, behind nations such as Venezuela and Iran, the groups said Tuesday in the report titled Flaring Progress in the Permian: The Untold Story.

Permian explorers are flaring more than ever before as record oil drilling created a surfeit in a region too sparsely populated to use all the gas that arises as a byproduct of crude output. Permian drillers flared enough gas last year to fuel every household furnace, stove and water heater in the state of Texas.

The report “gives a more accurate view of methane and flaring, accounting for the Permian’s massive energy potential and its wide-reaching benefits,” said Elizabeth Caldwell, a Texans for Natural Gas spokeswoman.