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Wyoming flaring rule requires improvements to prevent waste

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

On 10 November, the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission announced new revisions to the state’s flaring rules. While the text of the proposal has not yet been released, a description of its provisions by WOGCC Supervisor Mark Watson revealed both important deficiencies and important progress.

“This proposal contains some improvements, including better data reporting and a requirement that operators submit a gas capture plan with their application for a permit to flare,” said Amber Wilson, environmental quality advocate for the Wyoming Outdoor Council. “But we also urge the commission to ensure that flaring and venting are reduced as much as possible.”

“We look forward to reviewing the proposal once it is available,” said Jon Goldstein, Senior Energy Policy Manager at Environmental Defense Fund. “We are encouraged that WOGCC is addressing this serious problem. However, we are concerned that the proposal will not go far enough to curb the venting and flaring of natural gas in Wyoming.”

The proposal, as described by Director Watson, does not include a prohibition on venting, the intentional release of natural gas to the atmosphere. It also lacks any requirement that operators demonstrate an economic justification for venting or flaring. The new proposal places few new restrictions on venting or flaring, other than lowering the threshold under which venting would be allowed to 30 000 ft3/d.

“One major improvement to this proposal would be to eliminate all unpermitted flaring in Wyoming,” Wilson said. “As currently drafted, companies can flare up to 60 000 ft3 of natural gas per day without ever having to get a permit.”

Venting of natural gas is flatly prohibited in some states such as North Dakota. Furthermore, flared and vented natural gas represents the waste of a valuable natural resource. According to a recent report from ICF International, due to venting, flaring and equipment leaks, Wyoming wasted more than US$42 million worth of gas in 2013 on federal and tribal lands alone. According to a report from Western Values Project, if captured and sent to market, this would have brought an additional US$88 million in federal royalty payments to Wyoming since 2009.

Adapted from press release by Rosalie Starling

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