The volume of U.S. natural gas vented and flared reach a record high average of 1.28 Bcf/d in 2018, with Texas and North Dakota accounting for 82% of the total, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
The percentage of domestic gas vented and flared increased last year to 1.25% of gross withdrawals, compared with 0.84% in 2017, EIA said.
Texas and North Dakota accounted for 51% and 31%, respectively, of total U.S. vented and flared natural gas.
“Both Texas and North Dakota are working with producers to limit the need for flaring without shutting down or affecting production of crude oil from new wells,” EIA said. “Venting is banned in North Dakota and restricted in Texas.”
The Permian Basin and Eagle Ford plays have contributed to a rapid increase in natural gas flaring in Texas, with vented and flared gas reaching more than 0.65 Bcf/d in 2018, nearly double the 2017 level and about 2.5% of total 2018 natural gas gross withdrawals in the state.
The increase has continued this year, with flaring and venting in the Permian reaching an all-time high in the third quarter, averaging more than 750 MMcf/d, according to a preliminary analysis conducted by Rystad Energy. Rystad’s previous quarterly estimate suggested that basin-wide gas flaring averaged 600-650 MMcf/d during the nine-month period from 4Q2018 through 2Q2019.
The number of venting and flaring permits approved by the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) increased from slightly more than 300 in fiscal year (FY) 2010 to nearly 5,500 in FY2018, EIA said. But the state is facing pushback over some of those permits: pipeline giant Williams is suing RRC for routinely approving natural gas venting and flaring, which it claims violates state law.
Meanwhile, more than two dozen environmental groups and individuals, including retired Shell Oil Co. President John Hofmeister, in a letter sent to the commission wrote to “express our deep disappointment” to continue the practice of routinely issuing flaring exceptions.
Production of crude oil out of North Dakota’s prolific Bakken play grew five-fold between 2010 and 2018 to reach about 1.5 million b/d, but natural gas processing plant capacity hasn’t kept up with the amount of associated gas being produced, EIA said. About .4 Bcf/d was flared in the state last year -- 17% of total gross withdrawals, the highest percentage share of any state.
In recent years North Dakota has tried to limit the amount of flared natural gas, “but the current targets have not been consistently met,” EIA said. The state’s Department of Mineral Resources recently reported captured volumes of flared gas at the wellhead reached 82% in September, a slight increase from the previous month.