Texas regulator says stricter flaring rules would increase global CO₂ levels

By Cameron Wallace, Digital Editor on 2/19/2020

HOUSTON – Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton recommends a new methodology for measuring gas flaring, saying that acting based on current measurements would only increase greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

Speaking in a webcast on Tuesday, Sitton said the results of his Texas Natural Gas Flaring Report showed that focusing on total volumes flared is “incomplete and oversimplified, as it fails to consider other factors. These would include increased oil production and the amount of gas flared relative to how much oil is produced, global flaring practices and impacts from other nations.”

As an alternative benchmark, the report measured “flaring intensity,” or the ratio of Mcf’s of gas flared per barrel of oil, and modeled that volume for nations, states, and various producing companies, comparing the result against the global industry average. While the net volume of natural gas flared in Texas stands at approximately 650,000 Mcfd, the proportion of gas flared per barrel produced is lower than other oil-producing regions.

Using the benchmark, the world flaring intensity average is 0.14 Mcf/bbl. Iran and Iraq showed the highest flaring intensity in the study at 0.37, while Saudi Arabia with its waterflood fields showed a flaring intensity of 0.01 Mcf/bbl. The flaring intensity average for Texas was 0.09, below the U.S. average of 0.11 Mcf/bbl. Sitton said that these results reveal that flaring reduction initiatives are better aimed outside of the U.S.’ highest energy-producing state.

With the report showing Texas’ low ratio of flaring per barrel produced, the commissioner said that increasing regulation there would push production to other regions, many of which flare more gas in the course of oil production.

“Additional regulation would disadvantage investment, shifting demand to places that have worse flaring performance,” Sitton said. “If we cut [production] here, the demand will be filled elsewhere, thus actually increasing negative climate effects.”

In the report, the commissioner pointed out that the benchmark metric “should not be viewed in a vacuum,” but it stands as a means to evaluate potential changes to flaring regulation, and what impacts of regulation changes might entail.

Use this link to view the complete results of the Texas Natural Gas Flaring Report: https://rrc.texas.gov/media/56420/sitton-texas-flaring-report-q1-2020.pdf

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