The Permian Basin’s Flare Problem

Natural gas prices at the Waha Hub, which represents West Texas and Southeast New Mexico, USA, turned negative in April as natural gas production continues to soar above pipeline capacity in the Permian Basin. As a result, widespread natural gas flaring has engulfed the region in a cloud of methane. The good news is that the oil and gas industry has pushed to decrease emissions from engines, pumps, and compressors. Still, flaring natural gas is a big problem in the United States. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, flaring wastes US$275 million each year.

The flare problem will only get worse if natural gas production continues to surge higher. According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), gas production averaged 83.2 bcfd (2.4 x 109 m3 /d) in 2018. The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA) estimates that North American midstream operators will spend, on average, US$27.5 billion per year on oil, gas, and natural gas liquids (NGL) infrastructure for the next 20 years. Devotion to industrial might is one thing, but if infrastructure can’t keep up with growing production, then there’s a risk that methane emissions will continue to rise.

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This article appears in the June 2019 issue of Gas Compression Magazine. You can read the entire article right now by clicking the link above.

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