Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Talking Point 1: Green Completions and Zero Flaring

City Council will hold its first public hearing about the drilling and production ordinance on Nov. 6 (and a second one on Nov. 13). Those of us who support the DAG amendments should coordinate our speaking slots so as to maximize the information we convey and the impact we have. One idea is for each person to focus on a different aspect of our recommendations.

Toward that end, I thought I would start a series of blogs on talking points for the City Council meeting. I don't know it all, so please comment with additional information.

Here is one DAG recommendation: Require green completions and prohibit flaring in all cases except for emergencies.

Green completiona (or reduced emissions completions, RECs) are an EPA STAR recommended practice. Here is their description of the problem: "[Fracked] wells are completed by producing the fluids at a high rate to lift the excess sand to the surface and clear the well bore and formation to increase gas flow. Typically, the gas/liquid separatorinstalled for normal well flow is not designed for these high liquid flow rates and three-phase (gas, liquid and sand) flow. Therefore, a common practice for this initial well completion step has been to produce the well to a pit or tanks where water, hydrocarbon liquids and sand are captured and slugs of gas vented to the atmosphere or flared. Completions can take anywhere from one day to several weeks during which time a substantial amount of gas may be released to the atmosphere or flared."

Here is the solution: " [Green completions are] an alternate practice that captures gas produced during well completions and well workovers following hydraulic fracturing. Portable equipment is brought on site to separate the gas from the solids and liquids produced during the high-rate flowback, and produce gas that can be delivered into the sales pipeline. RECs help to reduce methane, VOC, and HAP emissions during well cleanup and can eliminate or significantly reduce the need for flaring. RECs have become a popular practice among Natural GasSTAR production partners."

Indeed they have. In fact, Devon Energy (with 5,000 wells on the Barnett) claims that this has been their "standard practice since 2004." Here we are in 2012 and it is still not in our ordinance.

What's so bad about flaring? Well it "causes many sorts of pollution - noise, toxic gasses, soot acid rain and the production of carbon dioxide." That quote is from an industry report! The report details ways in which flaring can be eliminated.

Oh, and by the way, the EPA is going to require green completions for all wells by 2015.

And, finally, green completions are required (including the prohibition of flaring) by Flower Mound, Southlake, and Dish.

This one seems like a no brainer: Clear health impacts, an industry-recognized practice, legal precedent, and impending federal requirement. Let's get it in the ordinance.

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