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Wyoming Considers Updating NatGas Flaring Rules

Wyoming's five-member Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (OGCC) chaired by Gov. Matt Mead on Tuesday initiated a rulemaking to update state requirements for flaring wellhead natural gas produced with crude oil.

The OGCC proposal would be reviewed by the governor's office and submitted for public review in a few weeks. John Robitaille, vice president at the Petroleum Association of Wyoming (PAW), said he does not see any problems in the proposals but still wants to see the formal language.

Essentially, the proposal as outlined by the state’s oil and gas supervisor Mark Watson would codify what has been the policy and practice in the state already, which includes requiring operators to file gas capture plans when they apply for drilling permits.

"They're just taking the current policy that has worked real well and putting it into the rules," Robitaille said. "This is something we have been suggesting for quite some time."

The proposal also may include requirements for gas gathering, said Robitaille. He said the OGCC has been asking for those rules anytime an operator applies to renew flaring authorization.

The proposal reportedly leaves in place a flaring threshold for operators of 60 Mcf/d. Any volumes over that level require approval from the OGCC.

Early last year the OGCC began a statewide flaring review, but it was delayed to tackle well setback requirements, which have since been established (see Shale DailyApril 17, 2014). Flaring is not a major concern in Wyoming compared to neighboring North Dakota, but it has commanded more attention in recent years as oil production in the eastern part of the state has accelerated.

"We will really have to see the eventual language to get a feel for what is being proposed," Robitaille said. "We don't really feel that we have a flaring issue in Wyoming. We think the current policy that is now in the draft rule has been working very well and has proven itself to be effective We don't have a problem with this part of the rule, but we really have to see the rest of it before we can make any judgment."

The latest action comes after the OGCC addressed other reforms under the governor's energy strategy, such as bonding and well setback requirements. Setbacks were raised from 350 to 500 feet as a minimum buffer between drilling rigs and dwellings.

At least one group wants the state to go further in its requirements. An official with the Wyoming Outdoor Council reportedly said the proposal should include banning any unpermitted flaring in the state.

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