Flaring Regulation

Why does RRC allow flaring?

The Commission’s Statewide Rule 32 allows an operator to flare gas while drilling a well and for up to 10 days after a well’s completion for operators to conduct well potential testing. The majority of flaring permit requests received by the Commission are for flaring cashinghead gas from oil wells. Permits to flare from gas wells are not typically issued as natural gas is the main product of a gas well.

Flaring of casinghead gas for extended periods of time may be necessary if the well is drilled in areas new to exploration. In new areas of exploration, pipeline connections are not typically constructed until after a well is completed and a determination is made about the well's productive capability. Other reasons for flaring include: gas plant shutdowns; repairing a compressor or gas line or well; or other maintenance. In existing production areas, flaring also may be necessary because existing pipelines may have no more capacity. Commission staff issue flare permits for 45 days at a time, for a maximum limit of 180 days.

See specifics on Statewide Rule 32 at the following link under §3.32 (Gas Well Gas and Casinghead Gas Shall Be Utilized for Legal Purposes):

Why does RRC grant extensions to flaring permits?

If operators want to pursue an additional 45 days past the initial 45-day flare permit time period, they must provide documentation that progress has been made toward establishing the necessary infrastructure to produce gas rather than flare it. A copy of the Statewide Rule 32 Exception Data Sheet can be found here.

The most common reason for granting an extension to an initial flaring permit is the operator is waiting for pipeline construction scheduled to be completed by a specified date. Other reasons for granting an extension include operators needing additional time for well cleanup and pending negotiations with landowners.

Does the Commission allow long-term flaring?

The majority of flaring permit requests that the Commission receives are for flaring cashinghead gas from oil wells. The Commission does not issue long-term permits for flaring from natural gas wells as natural gas is the main product of a gas well. Both oil and gas wells are allowed under Commission rules to flare during the drilling phase and for up to 10 days after a well’s completion for well potential testing. Rare exceptions for long-term flaring may be made in cases where the well or compressor are in need of repair.

Does the Commission track how much has been flared?

Operators are required to report to the Commission volumes of gas flared on their monthly Production Report form (PR form). The PR forms include actual, metered volumes of both gas well gas and casinghead gas reported by operators at the lease level.

How many venting and flaring permits have been issued in Texas?

Total venting and flaring permits approved statewide by the Railroad Commission of Texas:

FY 2016 4,870
FY 2015 5,689
FY 2014 5,285
FY 2013 3,012
FY 2012 1,963
FY 2011   651
FY 2010    306
FY 2009    158
FY 2008    107

To put these numbers in context, as of August 31, 2016 Texas had 311,173 active oil wells, so venting and flaring involves just a small fraction of the state’s oil wells. 

What percentage of total gas is reported flared?

Of the total amount of gas reported to the Commission, approximately 0.8 percent is flared/vented gas. The chart below reflects the percentage of total gas flared/vented.

Statewide Gas Production and Flare/Vent Percentages

How does RRC regulate flaring?

The Commission requires operators to obtain a permit to flare for most short-term requests and in every instance where the request is for an extended time period. Our trained staff works closely with operators to ensure compliance with Commission rules. RRC District Offices have inspectors available to witness operations, conduct inspections, provide information about permitting requirements, and ensure compliance with permits issued by the Commission.