Explaining Natural Gas Flaring to the New York Times’ Explanatory Reporters

Guest “Explanatory Reporting” by David Middleton

Hat tip to Kip Hansen for bringing this to my attention.

Despite Their Promises, Giant Energy Companies Burn Away Vast Amounts of Natural Gas

By Hiroko Tabuchi
Oct. 16, 2019

When leaders from Exxon Mobil and BP gathered last month with other fossil-fuel executives to declare they were serious about climate change, they cited progress in curbing an energy-wasting practice called flaring — the intentional burning of natural gas as companies drill faster than pipelines can move the energy away.

But in recent years, some of these same companies have significantly increased their flaring, as well as the venting of natural gas and other potent greenhouse gases directly into the atmosphere, according to data from the three largest shale-oil fields in the United States.

The practice has consequence for climate change because natural gas is a potent contributor to global warming. It also wastes vast amounts of energy: Last year in Texas, venting and flaring in the Permian Basin oil field alone consumed more natural gas than states like Arizona and South Carolina use in a year.


Since 2011, the period for which reliable numbers are available, Exxon has flared or vented more gas overall than any other operator in the three oil fields, which include the Eagle Ford and Permian basins in the Southwest, and the Bakken straddling the Canadian border. Companies often treat natural gas as a byproduct when drilling for oil, which is far more lucrative.


But flaring releases carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere, where it traps the sun’s heat, driving climate change. Venting directly emits methane, an even more potent greenhouse gas in the shorter term.

Both practices are “a tremendous waste of a natural resource,” said Riccardo Puliti, global director for energy at the World Bank…


Shale oil has made the United States the world’s largest oil producer. But shale wells tend to dry up more quickly than conventional oil fields. That means producers must drill constantly to keep their oil production steady, while venting or flaring off the gas before pipelines can catch up.


When an energy company strikes oil and begins to pump, less-valuable natural gas comes up alongside the oil. That gas could be gathered into pipelines and sold, but drilling has far outpaced pipeline construction, particularly in the booming oil fields of the Permian and Bakken.

Rather than delay drilling, producers will choose to vent or flare.

Many smaller oil producers flare or vent 100 percent of the gas their wells produce, the data shows. In those cases, “gas becomes more like a liability,” said Artem Abramov, an industry analyst at Rystad Energy. “It’s just much cheaper for companies to get rid of it.”


Hiroko Tabuchi is a climate reporter. She joined The Times in 2008, and was part of the team awarded the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting. She previously wrote about Japanese economics, business and technology from Tokyo.

New York Times

Last year in Texas, venting and flaring in the Permian Basin oil field alone consumed more natural gas than states like Arizona and South Carolina use in a year.”

If Arizona or South Carolina had a market for the excess natural gas, someone would figure out a way to sell it to them. These sorts of comparisons are meaningless. It doesn’t matter how much natural gas is flared if there’s no market for it or any way to get it to that market.

Trump’s Latest Executive Action Could Alleviate A Huge Problem For The World’s Most Productive Oil Field

April 12, 2019

The Permian basin, now the world’s most productive oil and gas field, is booming — so much so that there’s not enough pipeline capacity to carry out all the natural gas it produces, meaning much of it is flared.

How much? Some 553 million cubic feet per day, or enough to power every home in Texas, according to data from Rystad Energy compiled by Bloomberg.


The Daily Caller
  1. The Permian Basin is not a “oil and gas *field*” (more ‘splaining later).
  2. Not every home in Texas is powered by natural gas.
  3. Marketed natural gas production in Texas is already way more than enough to power every home in the State.

Marketed natural gas production from Texas is about 20,000 million cubic ft/d (mcf/d)… That’s 40 times the 553 million mcf/d flared in the Permian Basin.

Operators could literally pay someone $2/mcf (thousand cubic feet) to take the gas. However, these companies are in business to make money. Flaring the natural gas is less expensive than paying someone to take it off their hands.

[T]hree oil fields, which include the Eagle Ford and Permian basins in the Southwest, and the Bakken

Note to the New York Times Explanatory Reporters:

  1. The Eagle Ford is not a basin.
  2. The Eagle Ford, the Permian Basin, and the Bakken are not oil fields. They are plays, consisting of many oil & gas fields.
  3. The Eagle Ford and Bakken are plays related to specific rock formations.
  4. The Permian Basin is a collection of several smaller basins with numerous plays related to numerous rock formations.

I know this is a little bit of nitpicking, even The Daily Caller’s Michael Bastach referred to the Permian Basin as a field. It’s a common journalistic mistake and one even made by oil industry professionals. However, since the subject article is from “part of the team awarded the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting,” nitpicking is in order.

Both practices [venting and flaring] are “a tremendous waste of a natural resource,” said Riccardo Puliti, global director for energy at the World Bank…

Leaving it in the ground would be “a tremendous waste of a natural resource.” Flaring the gas in order to produce the oil “wastes” a low value resource in order to produce a higher value resource. That’s how capitalism is supposed to work.

  • 1 barrel of crude oil = 5,722,000 Btu
  • 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas = 1,037,000 Btu

Current prices:

  • Crude oil (WTI) = $53.48/bbl = $9.35/million Btu
  • Natural gas (Henry Hub) = $ 2.24/mcf = $2.16/million Btu

I could “spend” 2 Btu of natural gas to produce 1 Btu of oil and make over a 2:1 return on capital. The bottom line isn’t denominated in barrels, mcf, joules, watts or Btu… It’s denominated in $$$.

Shale oil has made the United States the world’s largest oil producer.

And flaring made this possible… End-o-story.

But shale wells tend to dry up more quickly than conventional oil fields. That means producers must drill constantly to keep their oil production steady

Shale wells don’t “dry up,” much less “dry up more quickly than conventional oil fields.” Shale reservoirs do tend to deplete more quickly than conventional reservoirs… But all oil reservoirs deplete or water out. All all oil & gas “producers must drill constantly to keep their oil production steady.” If you stop drilling, production declines.

Rather than delay drilling, producers will choose to vent or flare.

I really shouldn’t have to explain this to “the team awarded the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting.” “Producers” have to make money in order to stay in business. Oil “producers” make money by selling oil and gas. The only way to produce oil & gas is to drill. Oil companies that delay making money until market conditions improve cease to be “going concerns” fairly quickly.

“It’s just much cheaper for companies to get rid of it.”

Baker Hughes chooses Permian Basin to debut ‘electric frack’ technology

Sergio Chapa April 30, 2019

Houston oilfield service company Baker Hughes is using the Permian Basin in West Texas to debut a fleet of new turbines that use excess natural gas from a drilling site to power hydraulic fracturing equipment — reducing flaring, carbon dioxide emissions, people and equipment in remote locations.

Baker Hughes CEO Lorenzo Simonelli spoke about the company’s “electric frack” technology during a Tuesday morning investors call. The company said its first quarter profit fell more than half to $32 million from $70 million during the same period a year earlier. Revenues rose to $5.6 billion from $5.4 billion revenue in the first quarter of 2018.
As production continues to outpace pipeline construction in the Permian Basin, operators are burning off, or flaring, an estimated 104 billion cubic feet of natural gas per year instead of shipping it to market. Simonelli said he views wasted natural gas, a byproduct of oil drilling, as a business opportunity.


The Houston Comical

I’m not knocking this innovation. It’s a great idea in a mature producing area with so much excess associated natural gas that they have to flare -$200 to $300 million worth of natural gas every year to produce $243 million worth of oil every day…

Figure 1. El Paso Permian West Texas/SE New Mexico Natural Gas Prices (NGI)

There have actually been times when the price for Permian Basin natural gas has been less than $0/mmBtu, AKA negative.

Reducing flaring

There are two ways to reduce flaring in the Permian Basin and other shale plays:

  1. Ban the practice; which would crater US oil production.
  2. Make producing the natural gas at least as economically desirable as flaring it.

While I have little doubt that the New York Times “team awarded the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting”, “Riccardo Puliti, global director for energy at the World Bank” and every passenger in the 2020 Democrat presidential candidate clown car would vote for option #1, President Trump is going with option #2. Returning to the Daily Caller article…

More natural gas will be flared off rather than brought to market if the trend continues. That’s a problem President Donald Trump is looking to tackle.

Trump signed a pair of executive orders Wednesday aimed at expediting oil and gas pipelines, including asking the Environmental Protection Agency to clarify how states and environmentalists can challenge Clean Water Act permits.

Some states, like New York, have used water quality permits to block major gas pipeline projects. Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed to challenge any changes Trump makes to state permitting authority, despite gas shortages hitting some parts of the state.

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, who’s campaigning for president in 2020 solely focused on climate change, also promised to challenge Trump’s planned permitting reforms. Washington used water permitting to block coal and oil export terminals.

Trump also ordered the U.S. Department of Transportation to update rules for transporting liquefied natural gas by rail, and make it easier to finance new energy projects.

“Too often, badly needed energy infrastructure is being held back by special-interest groups, entrenched bureaucracies and radical activists,” Trump said at an International Union of Operating Engineers training center near Houston, before signing executive orders Wednesday.
“This obstruction does not just hurt families and workers like you. It undermines our independence and national security,” Trump said.

Daily Caller


“U.S. President Donald Trump signs an executive order on energy and infrastructure during a campaign event at the International Union of Operating Engineers International Training and Education Center in Crosby, Texas, U.S., April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria. ” Daily Caller
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October 22, 2019 2:18 pm

Why not burn it in a portable combustion engine ICE generator and send the electrons down the wire to market? Not as efficient as a CCGT, but it could also be ‘free’ electricity for the oil company to run the rigs, jacks and pumps? I think Canada is doing some of that, since if I understand correctly, they have banned flaring already. Although I think the bulk of oil coming out of Canada these days is oil sands derived oil. Make it worth their while and someone will make use of it. It is a a bit of a shame to see energy go to waste if it is possible to recover it. I imagine it just isn’t profitable, or it would already be done.

Reply to  Earthling2
October 22, 2019 2:54 pm

That is already being done using micro (gas) turbines.

Reply to  Earthling2
October 22, 2019 4:33 pm

Because power grid equipment costs more to install and connect than you would ever believe.

Natural natural gas has *mercury* in it, which destroys quite a few metals and alloys, as well as other nasty things that are rather unhealthy for fine scale mechanical tolerances.

Many wells *must* be flared off because they’re ejecting more than natural gas.

Loren Wilson
Reply to  Earthling2
October 22, 2019 5:28 pm

You have to clean it up first. Otherwise, you will buy a new engine every year.

Reply to  Earthling2
October 22, 2019 6:43 pm

Its already being done. ( in cananda)

I have customers who use the gas to

A) mine bitcoin when the grid doesnt need their power
B) sell to the grid when the price is right

I know it looks like waste gas… but its not if you are innovative

Reply to  Earthling2
October 22, 2019 9:43 pm

Already being done in the Bakken McKenzie county has about 90 M watts gas plan installed in the last few years. Williams county has a 100 + M watt gas turbine plant already installed it was done in the last ten years both sight have more room for turbines. That and addition 200 Meg watts of electric power generation for North Dakota. Before this last oil boom, North Dakota is the fourth largest electric power producing state in the US. I would assume the construction and installation is based on need for it since most of North Dakota electrical power is already being sent out of state. If you add in the wind generation ass in North Dakota in the last few years I would assume North Dakota generate between Hydro, Coal Gas and Wind, the state is generating more electrical power than ever, plus more oil and gas than ever. To bad most large population center are hundreds of miles away.

Reply to  Earthling2
October 23, 2019 11:16 am

There are gas turbines that are fairly insensitive to gas quality. Mostly older low-efficiency models, but better than nothing. But as already pointed out, if there isn’t already a good grid nearby, forget it.

Reply to  Earthling2
October 24, 2019 11:35 pm

They are capturing it as fast as they can(my family has 26 oil wells in the Bakken formation on the old farm) but this author fails to mention the left’s rabid opposition to new pipelines while stating that the gas comes out fast than pipelines can keep up. You can’t have it both ways by opposing pipeline construction and also bitching about the glaring of natural gas.

steve case
October 22, 2019 2:19 pm

Venting directly emits methane, an even more potent greenhouse gas in the shorter term.

Yes the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of methane, as the IPCC states, is pound for pound 86 times that of CO2 and for practical purposes total bullshit. How long is this GWP meme going to continue before it’s shown to the public for what it is.

Paul S
October 22, 2019 2:25 pm

How about building electric power plants at the source and use the natural gas to fire them? What are the economics on this thought?

Reply to  Paul S
October 22, 2019 3:48 pm

Is it more expensive to run a pipeline to an existing power plant, or build a temporary power plant and run wires to the existing grid?

William Astley
Reply to  MarkW
October 22, 2019 5:38 pm

There are definitely temporary power plants.

The gas however may need to be processed.

Wasting $300 million dollars/year of natural gas per year is a shame.

Crude oil (WTI) = $53.48/bbl = $9.35/million Btu
Natural gas (Henry Hub) = $ 2.24/mcf = $2.16/million Btu

Reply to  MarkW
October 22, 2019 8:11 pm

It’s cheaper to run a pipeline and a lot less ugly…

Stewart Pid
Reply to  DMacKenzie
October 23, 2019 4:34 am

Makenzie what r u using for pipeline costs and how long is the pipeline? I used to use $100,000 (Can dollars) per kilometre and I’m sure the costs are a lot higher these days.
I think u are being a tad naive about cheap pipelines.

For Mosher … the company I was with tried and failed to make the remote natural gas gensets work. They are surprisingly finicky and just wouldn’t run trouble free. This was some time ago and I’m sure they are better now but I was really surprised at how trouble free a diesel genset can be operating for weeks in a farmers field at -30C in the middle of nowhere while the natural gas generators were failing every couple of days even in the summer.

Re flaring banned in Canada …. if u can tie in the natural gas economically then you have to tie it in but the government lets u flare if the tie in is for example $500,000 and you would produce $200,000 of gas.

Reply to  Stewart Pid
October 23, 2019 11:45 am

Except in California where the required diesel particulate filter causes a lot of farmer’s pump engines to crap out because they’re not running at 90-plus percent load to burn off the particulate and regenerate the filter.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Paul S
October 22, 2019 3:56 pm

Even if you could tap it into the ERCOT’s grid, you simply can’t put megawatts of power into a grid without integrated central coordination of demand-supply-frequency regulation. And then where does the gas go if you aren’t using it to run the generators?… you once again have to simply flare it.
West Texas already has all the electricity it needs, plus it has all those West Texas windmills pumping out power that gets heavily subsidized with PTCs that grid operators “pay” them not to produce at times. Shipping the electricity e=to other states doesn’t work as Texas’s grid is not really part of the rest of lower 48’s two main grids.

October 22, 2019 2:29 pm

David, some of your nitpicking is perhaps misplaced as the reporters are attempting to communicate to those not versed in the petroleum world’s jargon. They perhaps chose more generally known terms that while not exactly correct are essentially correct. To me an oil well ‘drying up’ is the same as ‘depletion’. People misuse words all the time in metaphors and misused adjectives. eg: A house built wood rather than stonework cannot become dilapidated.
‘Plays’ versus ‘fields’ is another such jargon usage.

Reply to  David Middleton
October 22, 2019 6:36 pm

At least they didn’t refer to them as underground pools of oil. Or call the Permian basin a “discovery”.

Reply to  Rocketscientist
October 25, 2019 5:03 pm

Actually it’s easier to dilapidate a wood-built building than a stone-built one. True, the original source of ‘dilapidate’ is ‘lapis’, Latin for ‘(a) stone’, but it doesn’t mean ‘to remove stones from’. (The ‘di-‘ is just an intensifier, it doesn’t signify removal.) The English word descended from ‘lapis’ via the Latin verb ‘lapidare’, meaning ‘to stone’, in the sense of damaging something by throwing stones at it.

(Sorry, wildly off-topic, but I can’t resist competitive pedantry!)

The Depraved and MOST Deplorable Vlad the Impaler
October 22, 2019 2:34 pm

Yup! The people who have consistently blocked the construction/development of pipelines (which could be used to transport gas to a market, instead of flaring [yes, I know there are economic considerations also, but stay focused on the main issue]) rail against the very thing that provides them with all of their modern creature comforts.

It’s either hypocrisy, stupidity, or both … … …

Reply to  The Depraved and MOST Deplorable Vlad the Impaler
October 22, 2019 2:56 pm

. . . . too STOOPID to be hypocrites.

Paul Penrose
Reply to  The Depraved and MOST Deplorable Vlad the Impaler
October 22, 2019 3:18 pm

I also noticed they complained that flaring (burning the gas) added CO2 to the atmosphere, but then bemoan the “waste of a valuable resource”. But isn’t it only valuable because it can be burned to produce heat? So I guess they want the oil companies to sell it (instead of wasting it via flaring and venting), but only to customers that promise not to burn it. But the same activists oppose pipelines that the oil companies need to move the gas so that they can sell it.

Greg Cavanagh
Reply to  Paul Penrose
October 22, 2019 5:17 pm

If you sell it as a resource, the only thing you can do with it is to burn it. So one way or another, it gets burnt.

Oh No, did that CO2 get into the atmosphere even though we captured it and sold it?

Nick Schroeder
October 22, 2019 2:51 pm

Sometimes what they are flaring includes hydrogen sulfide, a lethal byproduct gas, and similar undesirable gases.

Reply to  Nick Schroeder
October 23, 2019 7:25 pm

thank you, don’t know why people keep forgetting this.

Roger Bournival
October 22, 2019 2:55 pm

I wonder how Michael Bastach would characterize my personal natural gas flaring (i.e., lighting my farts)? Would you ban that too, buddy?

Reply to  Roger Bournival
October 22, 2019 3:35 pm

Careful, he might want to hook you up to a pipeline.

Sam Pyeatte
Reply to  Roger Bournival
October 22, 2019 4:59 pm

Assuming you have tried that, you can easily get serious burns with that juvenile stunt.

Curious George
October 22, 2019 3:13 pm

Just curious .. methane can be dissolved in cold water to form a “clathrate”. The process can probably be scaled down much easier than a production of a liquefied natural gas. Why is it not commercially viable?

Reply to  Curious George
October 22, 2019 4:53 pm

Methane clathrate is a solid ice. You need water within a few degrees of it’s freezing point and lots of pressure. Then you get a water ice loaded with methane. So now, what do you do with a block of ice. You sure can not pump it. Put it on a truck and it melts. If you make a big block of ice, like in a railroad tank car, for example, you would have to add energy to melt the ice to liberate the gas when you want it.

October 22, 2019 3:26 pm

Have all the wasteful subsidies for wind and solar go towards pipelines for the gas.

October 22, 2019 3:32 pm

Flaring done during a wells completion is necessary in order to give the well a chance to clean up the natural gas to give it time to reach pipe line quality. When a well is fraced a combination of water and either nitrogen or CO2 are usually added. The nitrogen or CO2 are added to speed up cleanup. Wells are then flared/vented to clean up the gas so that it has a chance to meet pipeline quality requirements. If the pipeline companies would allow the gas into their pipelines, flaring could be cut significantly. But that would put the sales pipelines at risk because of the potential for corrosion or incombustible gas allowed to enter the sales line. The oil and gas companies could forgo using nitrogen or CO2 but then would have to swab the well for weeks or even months to unload the frac water and vent/flare even more gas.

If the well is a small volume oil well with an associated gas volume, an economic case can be made for venting the gas.

Oil and gas companies do not want to waste gas if it has value. They work with the pipeline companies to ensure that the sales pipelines are kept safe and waste minimized. For some reasons the eco warriors believe that gas has no value.

In the past, most of the gas vented to the atmosphere was natural. It was these natural vents that indicated to oil and gas companies they had a good chance of successfully drilling for hydrocarbons. Those natural leaks have been cut significantly as the bottom hole pressures of the reservoirs were lowered. There could be a case made that there is less gas being vented to the atmosphere today than before the use of the drilling rig to exploit natural gas reservoirs.

But why are we even discussing this? The whole CAGW theory is a fraud. Methane is not a potent GHG when in the presence of water vapor. When are we going to have a honest discussion? Not one dominated by Eco fascist warriors with the common sense of a pile of dung.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  SMS
October 22, 2019 4:02 pm

Which is why the work so hard to silence debate from knowledgeable skeptics. The Left knows many parts of their Climate Juggernaut are outright fraud, damn lies, and half-truths they can’t allow it to be exposed.

Reply to  SMS
October 22, 2019 4:17 pm

At less than 2 ppmv it’s not a potent GHG even without water vapor present. Nobody talks about its concentration in the atmosphere when moaning about what a potent GHG it is. Per molecule, OK, but in air its barely there.

Andy Mansell
Reply to  SMS
October 22, 2019 11:29 pm

Methane is not a potent GHG when in the presence of water vapor. So with this and it’s short life, why it even being discussed as a problem? How on Earth do the MSM get away with this?

Reply to  Andy Mansell
October 23, 2019 3:39 am

It’s a big scam. When they say methane is 25-85 times more potent than CO2, they are referring to GWP, global warming potential, which is a calculated effect over a 20-100 year period. It’s a fuzzy number that they can change at will, and, predictably, they keep bumping it up. I can’t find the comparative instantaneous IR absorption value of a methane molecule. In other words, how much IR does a molecule of methane absorb compared to a molecule of CO2?

Reply to  icisil
October 23, 2019 11:27 am

That depends on how many other molecules there are around. CO2 is almost saturated, so the next molecule has virtually no effect. CH4 is down at ppb and so is unsaturated. Under similar conditions CH4 is a weaker GHG than CO2 which in turn is VASTLY weaker than H2O:


Joel O'Bryan
October 22, 2019 3:48 pm

Cheap “fracked” natural gas is part of the Fracking Black Swan the GreenSlimers never saw coming when they started down this road to Renewable Energy riches (and destruction/indentured servitude of the middle class) agenda begun 20+ years ago. So now they are desperate to put a stake through this fracking swan’s heart by buying the Democrat politicians and funding their campaigns. And it all depends ultimately on an electorate ignorant of their true purpose, blinded with climate alarmism propaganda, in order to vote against their self-interest and elect the Democrat arsonists to more power over their lives. One good thing is the GND has pulled back the curtain of lies about CC for voters to see the true “Green” agenda is actually “Red.”

The Arsonist-Firefighter Democrats plan to counter these Trump EO moves in 2021 if they get control of the Executive branch with a President Pocahontas or Creepy Slo-Biden. The first phase of their “arson” part will come when the economy implodes at their electoral victory at merely their promise of a return to an 0bama-style regulatory fiat and taxation world for businesses and investors. The resulting fall in domestic energy demand under a recession will allow them the political room to re-impose regulatory fiats banning production practices (fracking, Federal land permitting, etc) that have no immediate impact because the world in recession will be awash in oil and so many frackers will be in bankruptcy, they won’t be around to object to Democrats preventing their eventual re-birth and a destruction of US Energy Dominance doctrine.

The economic firestorm swallowing up the middle class in 2021 will then allow Democrats riding to the rescue with more failed “Green” energy policies for their climate religion, including more wind and solar subsidies to pay-back the GreenSlimers for their campaign cash bribes investments legal campaign donations.

The one thing that will make it all interesting next summer will be when it becomes obvious their Chosen One from the candidate clown car has no chance of beating President Trump.
And their impeachment ploy will most certainly fail. Their current dirty trick tactics will fail just like they spectacular did against Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court and fed-up voters giving Democrats losses of key Senate races last year.

What will they then do to stop Trump’s re-election after the latest Impeachment-Removal gambit fails yet again? Their puppet masters (Steyer, Bloomberg, the Rockefellers, GreenSlime, et al) will certainly be demanding they do something for all the money they’ve thrown at them. One guess is they will have to promise their base they will pack the Supreme Court with 4 more Liberal justices in order to get them out to the pols to vote in large numbers.

There are certainly likely to be some Black Swan between no and November 2020. Maybe an extremely harsh 2019-2020 winter pummeling Iowa and New Hampshire February caucus-goers/voters whilst the Democrat clown car occupants promise them to impose higher energy costs?

Or if Pocahontas becomes the Clown Car contest winner will Silicon Valley-Big tech simply abandon her because of her promises to break-up their companies? Remember all politics are local. If she’s promising to bring anti-trust destruction to Facebook Google Amazon Netflix can they really support her?

So many nonlinear dynamics are in play, all we can be sure of is lots of entertainment from flailing D’s and Trump trolling them and triggering their deranged anxieties at every turn for the next 12 months.


Gunga Din
October 22, 2019 4:04 pm

Waste Water Plants also flare off methane from their anaerobic digesters.
Why not channel it and blow up a Tesla?

Gunga Din
Reply to  David Middleton
October 22, 2019 5:01 pm

Then how about a windmill?
Waste destroying a waste?
(It would save the birds.)

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Gunga Din
October 22, 2019 9:20 pm

Gunga Din
Or why not burn the methane to distill the processed effluent as a side product, or at least to dilute the effluent to upgrade the quality?

Paul Penrose
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
October 23, 2019 9:17 am

Methane produces much less energy during combustion than natural gas or propane. For that reason, it is not economic in the current market (with so much natural gas available).

Reply to  Paul Penrose
October 23, 2019 11:34 am

Er….natural gas is typically 95% methane and a couple of percent ethane, plus various minor (partly incombustible) ingredients.

John in Ohio
Reply to  Gunga Din
October 24, 2019 6:01 am

I am a little late to the party, but some places already do it. Not all municipal waste water is the same. Many plants have a much higher load of industrial waste water mixed with the municipal waste water than other plants. At many of these facilities, if the waste is coming from food production plants, it can make economic sense to install the gas cleaning equipment and an engine and generator to produce power. Some places will burn the methane and use it to heat buildings.

October 22, 2019 4:14 pm

Surely these people were not awarded a Pulitzer Prize, but were served the “Pullet Surprise” when they went to lunch.

Mark Broderick
October 22, 2019 4:16 pm

David Middleton

“All all oil & gas “producers must drill constantly to keep their oil production steady.”

One “all” is enough….. : )

October 22, 2019 4:22 pm

Considering the grants and subsidies being handed out for nutty ideas, let’s try this one:

As others have suggested, run the NG to small gas turbines and produce electricity. What to do with the electricity? Recharge batteries. Put them on trains to areas relying on alternative power. When they are depleted, ship them back to be recharged.

Yeah, I know. The energy expended shipping the batteries back and forth probably exceeds that of the batteries. But if someone could successfully make the case of transporting wood chips from the US to be burned in the UK to power generating plants, anything is possible.

Greg Cavanagh
Reply to  David Middleton
October 22, 2019 5:20 pm

I’m not seeing a problem with that. The hole is a reusable resource, fill it up and dig it out again. Reusable and environmentally friendly.

David Chappell
Reply to  Greg Cavanagh
October 22, 2019 9:05 pm

Truly renewable and sustainable.

Alan the Brit
Reply to  David Middleton
October 23, 2019 4:27 am

How else would you move a hole from one end of the garden to the other? The Two Ronnies made that gag work in one of their shows! 😉

Robert of Texas
October 22, 2019 4:26 pm

Flaring off “waste gas” from wells *IS* a wasteful practice. I compare it to leaving dead wood in forests so that forest fires can burn hotter and further – another wasteful practice. The problem is of course how does one recover and use the resource in a practical and economical manner?

The obvious solution for an oil field is to build a nearby gas powered electrical power plant…but then how does the gas get to it? More pipelines… Or trucks hauling compressed gas. And what happens when the waste gas declines over ten years? The power plant should be good for at least 30 years, so a huge capital investment wasted.

A portable power plant? Or many small portable power plants? But then how does one get the electricity onto a distant grid? Build more power lines?

So what you need is something that can move around easily, consumes natural gas, and produces something that can easily be transported to a market. A tiny natural gas to oil conversion plant that fits onto a few trucks… OK…so now…how long until it pays for itself and makes a profit? In today’s market, never.

It’s a catch-22. We need the oil, but have no economical way to treat and transport the gas – so they burn it.

They ought to at least use it to heat brine water to produce fresh water…that’s something we can use in West Texas.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  David Middleton
October 22, 2019 9:24 pm

Would it make sense to compress the methane and use it in lieu of CO2 to re-pressurize declining wells? That way, it would be conserved and possibly extracted in the future if it were needed. The high-pressure pumps could be run on methane themselves.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  David Middleton
October 23, 2019 9:14 pm

OK, after reading your link, I apparently got the terminology wrong. Since you didn’t answer my question, let me restate it: Would it make sense to compress the methane and use it in lieu of CO2 flooding for lifting the oil?

Russ in TX
Reply to  Robert of Texas
October 22, 2019 4:41 pm

Use it to power that booming Mentone night-life!

Bruce Cobb
October 22, 2019 4:41 pm


Dr. Bob
October 22, 2019 4:49 pm

Here is Chevron’s take on the Permian Basin from Seeking Alpha:
Chevron gives booming nod to continuing good times at Permian Basin
Oct. 22, 2019 6:40 PM ET|About: Chevron Corporation (CVX)|By: Carl Surran, SA News Editor
Chevron (NYSE:CVX) sees a “boom boom boom kind of economy” in the Permian Basin, insisting the world’s biggest shale play will not be susceptible to historic boom-and-bust cycles that have long dominated the Texas oil economy.
“We see a long, healthy pace of activity in the Permian and Texas for decades to come,” Steve Green, president of CVX’s North American business, said today at the Lone Star Energy Forum in Austin, Tex.
Agreeing that “Texas plays a really important role, Marathon Petroleum (NYSE:MPC) CFO Don Templin also offered a bit of caution to the conference, saying investments in export infrastructure would be needed to keep the shale boom going over the next five years.
“If you don’t have export capabilities, all the product produced in the Permian gets bottlenecked somewhere, and at some point in time, that will dampen the production,” Templin said.

I get the impression that Chevron does not believe Elizabeth Warren has a chance of being elected or they wouldn’t have such an optimistic view. One might even say that they don’t think a Dem will get elected as essentially all Dem’s would ban oil production to some extent or another.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Dr. Bob
October 22, 2019 7:17 pm

A President Pocahontas would have very little ability to stop drilling in Texas Permian basin. There is very little Federal land in Texas outside of military bases and Big Bend National Park. Navigable waterways in the Permian Basin are non-existent. And the pipelines to the coast are all intrastate and the permits already approved for more.

Pocahontas’s first move would be to close off ANWR. Next she’d impose a Deep Water moratorium on permitting in the GoM and stop production there. Screwing over the Red states jobs in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Alaska would not concern her a bit. Any attempts to revive WOTUS or CPP regulatory regimes on the States would depend on whether the Congressional Democrats could pack the Supreme Court with 4 new Liberal justices to overcomes the 5 (hopefully 6) Justices Conservative block that would stop her violations of the Constitution.

Dr. Bob
October 22, 2019 4:55 pm

I can see one way to incentivize oil companies to not flare or vent associated gas. Conduct a LCA on the process and use alternative fate analysis to show that using gas benefits the environment (reduces GHG emissions in this case) and so the NG should qualify for RINs and maybe even California LCFS credits. This would artificially increase the value of the NG making it profitable to bring it to market. That is what is done with Renewable Fuels under EISA 2007 and the LCFS in CA.
For example, using cow manure to produce Renewable NG results in $15/MMBtu RINs and $75/MMBtu in LCFS credits for a product that is worth $2.40/MMBtu. All you have to do is put in a $5 million bio-digester and generate more than $5 million in subsidies/year. Now that is a great ROI for a project.

Mark B.
October 22, 2019 6:05 pm

NYS has effectively banned pipelines for naturals gas cutting off New England from additional supplies. It’s gotten so bad that NYC is requiring new customers be allowed to connect to existing undersized distribution systems for which there is now insufficient supply.

John F. Hultquist
October 22, 2019 7:51 pm

Folks ought to visit an apple orchard after harvest.
An impressive amount of Apples are on the ground or left on trees.

Search with images with this string: – wasted apples on ground orchard –

Each apple may be 99% to 50% usable but the value is less than the cost of picking,
hauling, storing, processing, and marketing.
Water ( a so called GHG) and other things return to the environment over time.
Is there a good way of saying “It’s a mess!”

October 22, 2019 10:26 pm

If the natural gas is so impure that it cannot be used in a gas turbine or internal combustion engine, then go back to old tech and burn it in a boiler and use a steam turbine or use it to fuel a Stirling engine to make electricity &/or run an LNG plant. Both can be built on a small enough scale to be transportable – the road transportable HP boilers are already available for hire in the US and smaller scale steam turbines are in common use in industries such as pulp & paper mills.

October 22, 2019 10:46 pm

You cannot trap heat – what an idiot Hiroko Tabuchi is.

October 23, 2019 4:10 am

I’m curious about something that isn’t addressed in the part that says transporting/selling natural gas instead of flaring it is not profitable.

I use natural gas to heat my home and cook. Obviously, it’s coming from somewhere. I see this ‘not profitable’ bit as saying it’s better to waste a resource than it is to clean it up and sell it. If I’m using it way up here in the not-yet-frozen north, it has to be coming from somewhere. I find it difficult to believe that it’s not profitable to clean it up and sell it, or that it has less value than crude. Seems like wasting a resource that could at least be stored as liquified natural gas, which is what Russia sells to Europe.

Just saying… it may look like a pig in a poke, but you can make sausages out of the pig, y’know. And anyway, where is MY NatGas coming from? It isn’t produced locally as far as I know.

Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  Ex-PH2
October 23, 2019 9:03 am

Ex-PH2 – October 23, 2019 at 4:10 am

I use natural gas to heat my home and cook. Obviously, it’s coming from somewhere. I see this ‘not profitable’ bit as saying it’s better to waste a resource than it is to clean it up and sell it. If I’m using it way up here in the not-yet-frozen north, it has to be coming from somewhere.

Ex-PH2, …… iffen you live in the US then please check this map of US Natural Gas Pipelines to figure out where your NG is possibly coming from.

Gerry, England
October 23, 2019 6:13 am

Just further evidence of the extinction of proper journalism. We are seeing that in the UK with Brexit where politicians can say things that are wrong or just plain lie and the journalists are too ignorant to call them out.

Michael May
October 23, 2019 6:23 am

If my rig is flaring, it’s because the gas is a danger, we have to get rid of that pressure or we’ll suffer a blowout. We never want to flare, we never want gas to get that high, but there’s little choice when the gas pressure reaches certain levels or it becomes a danger to everyone at the rig site. Burning the gas is the least dangerous way for us to get rid of it. If it floods the area, our generators could explode it, causing injuries to the crew.

d.c thoth
Reply to  Michael May
October 24, 2019 8:10 pm

That’s why we did it, but we lived at the rig.

October 23, 2019 10:31 am

A most excellent article! Thank, Sir Anthony.

Johann Wundersamer
October 28, 2019 8:23 pm

The Daily Caller’s Michael Bastach –> The Daily Caller’s Michael Bastasch

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