Many people like to light fireworks over Memorial Day weekend
but they probably aren't lighting anything as brightly as
companies in Texas.
The Lone Star State has seen an increase in flaring - the
by burning - in recent months. According to
The Texas Tribune
, the reason why more natural gas is being flared is a lack of
Ramona Nye, a spokesperson for the Texas Railroad Commission -
which regulates the oil and gas industry in the state, told the
news provider that flaring permits approved by the agency
increased from 107 in fiscal 2008 to 651 in fiscal 2011.
One of the main contributors to the flaring situation is the
state's booming Eagle Ford shale.
According to the Commission
, in 2008 the play produced 1 billion cubic feet of shale gas and
130,802 barrels of oil. By 2011 those numbers had risen to 243
billion cubic feet and 30,453,253 barrels, respectively.
However, the growth of the infrastructure in the play has not
kept up with rising production, leading to the increased flaring
as there are not enough pipelines in place to handle the natural
gas that surfaces with oil.
"There's just more demand for pipelines than they can
currently keep up with," James Mann, an attorney who works with
pipeline companies, told the Tribune.
North Dakota has flaring concerns too
Much like Texas' Eagle Ford, North Dakota's Bakken shale has
lead to a huge increase in shale gas production. According to the
U.S. Energy Information Administration
, 2005 saw the play average 160 million cubic feet of gas
produced each day, while September 2011 witnessed more than 485
million cubic feet produced daily.
For much the same reason as Texas (a lack of pipeline
capacity), more than one-third of this gas was flared or
otherwise not marketed. In May of last year, the North Dakota
Department of Mineral Resources estimated that 29 percent of gas
produced was flared, while another 7 percent was unaccounted for
or otherwise lost.
However, there is a bit of hope in sight as a North Dakota
Pipeline Authority report from 2010 showed that one county in the
state cut its flaring by 62 percent from December 2008 to
December 2009. The county was reportedly able to accomplish this
with the addition of two new natural gas facilities and the
corresponding expansion of related infrastructure.
Still some high profile investors are pushing companies to
reveal precisely how much natural gas they flare. According to
, earlier this year 36 investors representing half a trillion
dollars in assets sent a letter to 21 major drilling companies
asking them about flaring in North Dakota, Texas, Ohio and
Flaring "poses significant risks for the companies involved,
and for the industry at large, ultimately threatening the
industry's license to operate," part of the letter read, reports
the news provider.
A worldwide issue
The issue of flaring is hardly an American problem either.
According to the
Global Gas Flaring Reduction partnership
, 5.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas is either being flared
or vented annually. (Venting refers to the release of the natural
gas into the atmosphere, which the EIA says is more damaging than
flaring as methane is more harmful than carbon dioxide).
That 5.3 trillion figure represents one-quarter of yearly
natural gas consumption in the U.S. According to the GGFR, Russia
was responsible for the most natural gas flaring in 2010, burning
off twice as much natural gas as the next closest country,