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Tom Kirkman

Railroad Commissioner to list best, worst oil companies flaring natural gas

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Hooray !  This is long overdue.  This should *finally* be a step in the right direction for the Railroad Commissioner to create pressure to reign in the hugely wasteful flaring of Natural Gas in U.S. fracking operations.  

Railroad Commissioner to list best, worst oil companies flaring natural gas

In a report released this afternoon, Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton is expected rank oil companies based on the amount of flaring they do.

The 13-page report is expected to show how the industry practice of flaring, or burning surplus natural gas from oil wells, has reached volumes not seen in Texas in 70 years, when an oil boom outpaced pipeline construction and companies reported burning off a record 815 million cubic feet of natural gas per day in 1953.

Without enough pipelines to move natural gas to market and thousands of oil wells producing the byproduct in the Permian Basin and elsewhere around the state, oil companies burned an estimated 650 million cubic feet of natural gas per day in 2018, more than double the 268 million burned a year earlier.

"Everybody talks about flaring levels being higher for the past couple of years, but just using total flaring volume is a pretty poor data point," Sitton said. "The insight into what these numbers actually mean and what they tell us takes a unique skill set."

Taking publicly available data on the agency's website, Sitton compared the amount of natural gas a company flared to the amount of crude oil the company produced from November 2018 to October 2019 to create the flaring index. That index, he said, can be used to measure how well companies and the state are performing with regards to flaring.

With an average of nearly 23.4 million cubic feet of natural gas burned per day during that one-year period, Irving oil major Exxon Mobil led all others in the amount of gas burned off. But Exxon produced more than 181,000 barrels of crude oil per day in the same time, giving the company a relatively low flaring index score of 0.13 in Sitton's report.  ...


... Sitton is releasing the report independently of the agency and his two fellow commissioners on the Railroad Commission of Texas, the state agency that regulates the oil and natural gas industry. That move, he said, was done to sidestep the politics of his fellow commissioners, release the data to the public and begin a fact-based public debate on how to handle the issue.

Up for re-election this year to a six-year term, the Friendswood Republican faces one challenger in the Republican primary. Four Democrats, two Libertarian Party candidates and a Green Party candidate also are making a run at Sitton's seat. Some of those candidates say the release of the report was timed to boost Sitton's election effort.

"I started this analysis five or six months ago, before any of those candidates filed for office, so that's a pretty weak political claim," Sitton said. "But I'm not surprised;  that's what weak political candidates do." 


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