Texas regulators to review natural gas flaring rules

The Texas Railroad Commission and the TRC’s Eagle Ford Task Force plan to study whether existing state regulations on flaring and venting associated with oil and natural gas operations need to be updated, Commissioner David Porter said in a May 23 news release from his Austin office.

“We must address flaring that is associated with the rapid industry expansion,” Porter said. “I have traveled the state extensively and seen first-hand that activity is outstripping capacity and awaiting pipeline infrastructure.”

The development of unconventional oil and gas nationwide has drawn attention as the general public questions industry about flaring and hydraulic fracturing. The US Environmental Protection Agency is scheduled to release a report on fracing in 2014.

Porter helped organize the Eagle Ford Task Force, which meets monthly to examine water issues in South Texas. The group was formed in response to concerns about how fracing might affect water levels (OGJ Online, Feb. 29, 2012).

Regarding ongoing concerns about possible air and water pollution from oil and gas activities, Porter said various state regulators and industry executives are reviewing whether industry can better implement and increase the use of recycled water in daily operations.

Meanwhile, Porter said he wants to ensure operators fully comply with current TRC flaring and venting rules. He also wants to update the state’s flaring and venting rules to reflect the increased production of unconventional resources from shale plays.

He advocates reviewing flaring technologies to encourage the use of efficient, environmentally protective, and energy-saving flares. TRC will work in partnership with other state regulatory agencies to streamline air emission rules, monitoring, and reporting, he said.

In addition, Porter said he is studying a pilot program to use gas as a source of power for on-lease operations in lieu of flaring the gas.

“We must proactively address flaring with fair, predictable, commonsense regulations based on science and fact,” Porter said. “If we don’t, we can expect the antifossil fuel folks including the EPA to once again attempt to curtail oil and gas production in our state by using politically motivated rulemakings to implement their political agenda.”

Doug Robison, chairman of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association, said his group endorses the initiatives and is ready to fully cooperate. The regional trade association is based in Midland.

Thure Cannon, Texas Pipeline Association executive director, said the pipeline industry is building pipelines at a record pace. The association is based in Austin.

“Ordering steel and constructing pipelines unfortunately takes longer than drilling the well,” Cannon said. “Our industry will continue to work hard to catch up with the bevy of new production. We fully support and appreciate Commissioner Porter’s initiative.”

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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