Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) Commissioner David Porter said Wednesday the state must work to mitigate the impact of numerous gas flares across the state as Texas develops its oil and gas reserves from shale plays.

Porter, who also is founder and chairman of the state’s Eagle Ford Task Force, said he has studied solutions to reduce flaring and venting associated with oil and gas production. Flaring has been on the increase in Texas and elsewhere as pipeline and other infrastructure races to keep up with development (see Shale Daily, Jan. 19).

“The pipeline industry is building pipelines at a record pace,” said Thure Cannon, executive director of the Texas Pipeline Association. “Ordering steel and constructing pipelines unfortunately takes longer than drilling the well. Our industry will continue to work hard to catch up with the bevy of new production.”

Porter said technical and engineering innovations have positioned Texas as the nation’s top natural gas-producing state and largest natural gas employer, with nearly 1.3 million direct and indirect jobs. “This is great news, but we must address flaring that is associated with the rapid industry expansion. I have traveled the state extensively and seen first-hand that activity is outstripping capacity and awaiting pipeline infrastructure.”

Porter’s initiative includes:

“We must proactively address flaring with fair, predictable, common-sense regulations based on science and fact. If we don’t, we can expect the anti-fossil fuel folks including the [Environmental Protection Agency] to once again attempt to curtail oil and gas production in our state by using politically motivated rulemakings to implement their political agenda — not what is best for the people of Texas,” said Porter.

The Permian Basin Petroleum Association said it endorsed and would support Porter’s initiative, as did State Rep. Jim Keffer, chairman of the House Energy Resources Committee.

The amount of gas vented and flared in Texas has ranged between 0.4%-0.7% of gross withdrawals every year since 1971, and held steady at 0.5% between 2007 and 2010. Full year records aren’t available for 2011.

North Dakota is another state where gas flaring has been on the rise, thanks to the breakneck speed at which the Bakken Shale is being developed. However, earlier this year regulators said flaring would drop by more than two-thirds as new gas processing capacity comes online (see Shale Daily, Jan. 20).