Texas oil regulator acts to reduce gas flaring with new rules and incentives

11/9/2020

AUSTIN – Commissioners for the Railroad Commission of Texas took a critical step on Wednesday, Nov. 4 toward further reducing flaring from oil and gas sites in the state.

The agency’s commissioners approved a revamped Form R-32, Application for Exception to Statewide Rule 32, which had previously been titled Statewide Rule 32 Exception Data Sheet and will be used by oil and gas operators to apply for an exception to flare gas during oil and gas operations. The form provides specific guidance on when an exception to flare would be permissible, under which circumstances, and for how long.

The commissioners’ action made changes to the application for flaring exceptions, not to the state’s flaring rule (Statewide Rule 32). On Aug. 4, commissioners voted to publish a proposed version of the application for public comment. RRC staff received and considered 26 sets of comments from individuals, operating companies, industry associations, trade groups, and nongovernmental organizations.

Based on the public comments received,  changes were made to how information was organized on the proposed form and improved instructions, while maintaining key data that the Railroad Commission will receive from oil and gas operators as proposed in August. Form R-32 will:

  • In many cases, reduce the period of time an operator may obtain an administrative exception to flare gas. For certain exceptions, the duration may be reduced by 50% to 80%.
  • Provide incentives for operators to use technologies to reduce the amount of gas flared.
  • Require operators to submit more specific information to justify the need to flare or vent gas in accordance with Commission rules.
  • Provide additional key datapoints to facilitate compliance audits with reported production.

“Wednesday’s approval of the newly revised Form R-32 is a great step forward for the energy industry in Texas,” said RRC Chairman Christi Craddick. “I am thankful for Commissioner Christian’s leadership on this effort and for the hardworking staff that made this successful.”

“Texans demand transparency and innovation from all levels of government,” said Commissioner Ryan Sitton, “and this form will help collect more accurate data as we assess the role of flaring and look for ways to reduce it going forward.”

“Texas has done a tremendous job reducing flaring this year, flaring less than a half a percent of gas produced in May 2020,” Commissioner Wayne Christian said. “This form change is a big and important step towards minimizing routine flaring in Texas, allowing our agency to collect the information it needs to better determine who is following the rules when it comes to flaring and who is not.”

Form R-32 will be part of the Commission’s development of a Rule 32 computer program, which will facilitate the online submission of flaring requests and provide the agency with a better mechanism for compliance audits and data analytics.

Until the Rule 32 program is online, which is targeted for the spring, operators will be able to use either the current application for exceptions to flaring or the new Form R-32.

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