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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Marietta College Professor: New Anti-Flaring Regulations May Produce Opposite of Intended Effects

From the Parkersburg News & Sentinel:
The Obama administration’s clampdown against the flaring of natural gas from shale wells has been heralded by environmental groups because they say it will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. But these new regulations may wind up doing just the opposite. 
Gas flaring is an integral part of oil and gas production operations when a new well is drilled and completed. Petroleum engineers and geoscientists work together to test the new well so they know the pressures and volumes of crude oil and natural gas the well is capable of producing. This is necessary so they can properly design the equipment on location and pipelines that must be constructed to handle the volumes produced. 
During the testing period, liquids must be captured in tanks on site while natural gas, which is primarily methane, must be flared because pipeline connections typically are not designed and available until after the potential of the well or wells on the pad has been evaluated. 
Flaring is needed for both environmental and safety purposes. Flaring prevents a dangerous buildup of methane at a drilling site and prevents the release of methane, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. In frontier areas like North Dakota and New Mexico, flaring is done when oil production outpaces the installation of gas pipelines. 
The administration, however, says the practice of flaring wastes valuable gas resources. Methane, a potent greenhouse gas that has 87 times the heat-trapping ability of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period, actually accounts for only about 9 percent of all U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions. The administration contends about one-third of the methane emissions in the U.S. come from oil and gas development and has set a target of cutting methane emissions from oil and gas drilling by 40-45 percent of 2012 levels by 2025.
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