You see it on headlines everywhere- ‘The Permian Basin is now the world’s top oil producer’.
“Largely what we are looking to develop out here is crude oil,” says Stephen Robertson, PBPA Executive Vice President.
But, with all that crude oil- comes natural gas.
“We’ve got so much oil coming on, so much natural gas but theres no place to put it, ” says Kirk Edwards, CEO of Latigo Petroleum LLC.
“Flaring creates economic waste and for many it’s a factor in climate change,” says Steven Pruett, CEO of Elevation Resources LLC.
“It’s a black eye of the industry,” says Edwards.
“I’d say right now- everybody, operators, people that are living here, probably feel that we are flaring more than we’d like to,” says Robertson.
“We are flaring a lot right now- as a state in the Permian Basin,” says Ryan Sitton, Commissioner of the Texas Railroad Commission.
So, why is natural gas essentially being thrown away?
“What happens in the oilfield- if they can’t put that natural gas into a pipeline they have to do something with it,” says Edwards.
And, that is what we call gas flaring.
“Natural gas because it’s a gas has to be under pressure. So the only way you can really transport that gas is by pipeline that can provide that pressure,” says Robertson.
And right now, the Permian Basin doesn’t have the pipeline infrastructure to transport it.
“Gas really can’t be stored,” says Pruett.
So why don’t companies slow down oil production if we have an excess of gas?
“Because we have bills to pay; we have shareholders, royalty owners and we have operational considerations to keep our wells producing,” says Pruett.
So let’s talk numbers. How much does the Permian Basin flare off?
“Right now the numbers that are coming into us say 300 million cubic feet of gas, which is less than 2-percent of the gas that’s being produced in the Permian Basin; and its less than .1-percent of the gas that’s being produced in the world,” says Sitton.
“To put that in perspective, a billion cubic feet of day heats about 5 million homes so it’s the equivalent of heating about 2.5 million homes a day,” says Edwards.
Companies have to get permission before they can flare.
“If it’s a very small amount – you can get permits from- in texas, the Railroad Commission to flare that gas,” says Robertson.
“The Railroad Commission allows administrative permits for up to 180 days. After that, they have to come back to us and have a hearing to see why they would need extended permits,” says Sitton.
So, what’s the answer?
“Well the good news- solutions are coming,” says Sitton.
“If we could use the natural gas that we are producing out here as the fuel, as opposed to diesel- there’s a little bit of a solution,” says Robertson.
“From what we’re understanding, maybe toward the end of this year or the start of 2020, for sure, those pipelines will be built on to the Gulf Coast and hopefully all this will have receeded by then and they can take the gas out without having to flare anymore,” says Edwards.
Now, companies are responsible for reporting the amount they flare off. Because of this, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration has claimed the amount the Railroad Commission estimates could be off.