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Nick Cunningham

Nick Cunningham

Nick Cunningham is an independent journalist, covering oil and gas, energy and environmental policy, and international politics. He is based in Portland, Oregon. 

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The Gas Flaring Crisis In The U.S. Oil Patch

In its relentless pursuit of oil, the shale industry continues to burn more and more gas into the air.

The rate of flaring in the Permian basin reached a record high in the first three months of this year, averaging 661 million cubic feet per day (MMcfd), according to Rystad Energy. That is more than double the amount of flaring for the same period from a year earlier.

There is little chance of a reduction in the next few months. “We anticipate that basin-wide flaring will stay above 650 MMcfd before the Gulf Coast Express pipeline comes online in the second half of 2019,” Artem Abramov, Head of Shale Research at Rystad Energy, said in a press release.

It’s an astonishing amount of gas that is being flared into the atmosphere. Rystad puts it into context, noting that the most productive gas facility in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico – Shell’s Mars-Ursa complex – produces about 260 to 270 MMcfd of gross natural gas. In other words, the most productive gas project in the Gulf of Mexico only produces about 40 percent of the volume of gas that is being flared and vented in West Texas and New Mexico every single day.

Things are not that much better in North Dakota. Bakken shale drillers flared and vented about 500 MMcfd in the first quarter of 2019, Rystad estimates. Together, the shale industry in the Permian and the Bakken flared or vented 1.15 billion cubic feet per day in the first quarter. “Converting to the metric…



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  • DonOldGuy on June 06 2019 said:
    In 1989, I sat in, then Congressman, later Senator Mark Andrews office. We discussed what reaction the East Coast dwellers would have upon discovering this problem. At the time I was also taking trips to Saudi Arabia where the night sky was illuminated by flared gas. Our citizens were paying a huge price in overall inflation As well as heating costs.
    Nothing has really changed.
  • TrueTexan Tex on June 06 2019 said:
    This is a sad sad state we have hit. We're supposed to be drilling for energy and money. This is a huge waste of everyone's time and money. Greed saturation point has been hit.

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