When writing about the Texas Railroad Commission, it is customary to note that, despite its name, it regulates the state’s oil and gas industry. Having read the report it just published on flaring, perhaps we can drop that disclaimer.
Flaring and venting — whereby unwanted gas from oil wells is burned off or just released into the air — are old practices that are now in focus for two reasons. First, the shale boom has led to a lot more of both, as fracking of wells outpaced construction of new pipelines and processing facilities. Texas’ flared and vented gas has risen from about 100 million cubic feet per day a decade ago to an estimated 650 million a day in 2018, according to figures cited by the commission. Estimates from Rystad Energy and Bernstein Research suggest flaring and venting in the Permian basin alone topped 800 million cubic feet per day last year — far more than Texas’ entire residential consumption of the fuel.