Railroad Commission Chairman Wayne Christian discusses flaring

Published: Feb. 10, 2020 at 3:56 PM CST
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Flaring is a process used primarily in the production of crude oil in which excess natural gas produced with the oil is burned off at the well head. An operator who wants to flare gas must receive authorization from the Railroad Commission of Texas.

"There are many misconceptions about what flaring is and how much we are flaring in Texas," said Chairman Wayne Christian. "This uncertainty has led to confusion and concern among the general public and on Wall Street, limiting the funding opportunities for independent energy producers across the state."

"As I previously stated in an opinion piece for USA Today (read here), flaring is an important part of America's rise to global energy dominance and is a safer alternative to venting," continued Christian. "However, I am very concerned about the rate of flaring in Texas and have expressed this as the first commissioner in recent memory to vote against a flaring permit. "

Last fall, Chairman Christian instructed staff to analyze flaring in Texas. Their analysis shows that the average monthly statewide flaring rate since January 2014 has been about 1.24 percent, fluctuating between 0.8 percent to 2.2 percent. The data is taken from flaring amounts and gas production reported on operators' monthly production reports to the Commission.

Operators receiving permits to flare are required to report to the Commission gas volumes flared on their monthly Production Report form (Form PR). On the forms, operators must include actual, metered volumes at the RRC lease level.

RRC's flaring rule allows an operator to flare gas while drilling a well and for up to 10 days after a well's completion to conduct well potential testing. Flaring from wells for extended periods may be necessary if a well is drilled in areas new to exploration where pipelines have not been constructed. Other reasons for flaring include: gas plant shutdowns; repairing a compressor or gas line or well; or other maintenance. In existing production areas, flaring also may be necessary because operating pipelines may have reached capacity.

"I truly believe much of our state's flaring will be eliminated as we expand our pipeline capacity and export infrastructure for LNG," continued Christian. "But in the meantime, I would love to hear suggestions from industry and the public on creative ways we can curb this practice and encourage using this gas for its intended purpose, powering Texas."