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Essential Infrastructure Is Key to Reducing Permian Basin Emissions

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The most effective and economically beneficial way to reduce flaring is through the construction of new pipelines to ship associated natural gas to market – a fact that received unanimous agreement during a recent panel discussion on the Permian Basin hosted by Rice University’s Baker Institute.

The panelists – which included Rystad Energy’s Mike McCormick, the Energy Defense Fund’s (EDF) Colin Leydon and Mark Agerton, a nonresident scholar of the Baker Institute’s Center for Energy Studies – spent a large portion of time discussing Texas’ proposed flaring regulations and the important role that infrastructure can play in reducing flaring activities.

Ambitious Target and Technology

Reducing flaring and overall oil and natural gas emissions is a key focus across the industry. During the event, McCormick described some of the innovative initiatives and reduction targets producers have put forward, showing their commitment to reducing emissions. In fact, just this week, ExxonMobil announced a new five year emissions reduction plan that sets ambitious reductions targets, including reducing methane intensity by 40-50 percent and well flaring intensity by 35-45 percent from 2020 levels.

Companies across the Permian Basin are investing in technology to reduce their flaring amounts, as well as their methane leakage rates, in order to be able to move associated gas produced during oil development to market. Collaborations are helping bring regulators, academia, environmental groups and industry to the same table to tackle the challenge of finding innovative and reasonable solutions that can be employed by large and smaller producers alike. Project Astra, for instance, is a collaboration between the University of Texas at Austin, EDF, ExxonMobil, Gas Technology Institute and Pioneer Natural Resources Company that aims to use “advanced technologies to help minimize releases into the atmosphere.”

Attacking the solution

The construction of new pipelines in the United States, including in Texas, has become increasingly difficult. Earlier this year, activists celebrated a “huge victory” after a number of pipeline projects across the country were halted over the summer. In that same vein, here in Texas, activists are increasingly using frivolous lawsuits and coordinated campaigns to stop the construction of pipelines like the Permian Highway Pipeline.

During the webinar, EDF’s Leyden mentioned that environmental groups like his are currently working with state legislators to enact excessive regulation and reforms both on flaring and eminent domain aimed specifically at the oil and natural gas industry, the backbone of Texas’ economy.

Excessive legislation, such as this, could have significant impacts on Texans. After all, we all rely on electric transmission lines, roads, and pipelines for our everyday needs including electricity, transportation, water, and fuels. Infrastructure such as this is an essential part of our state’s growth and success.

Conclusion

Texas’ oil and natural gas industry has made huge strides in identifying and preventing methane leaks and reducing their venting and flaring practice though technological innovation and ambitious targets. However, there is still more to be done, including continuing to invest in the infrastructure that will truly make a difference and ensure the sustainability of both our environment and our economy.

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