Railroad Commission Chairman Victor Carrillo Urges Oil, Gas & Pipeline Operators to Inspect and Maintain Infrastructure for Air Emissions
Austin, Texas – During the Railroad Commission conference held today, Chairman Victor Carrillo directed Railroad Commission staff to inform all Texas oil, gas, and pipeline operators to be diligent in their efforts to control potential air emission releases, especially volatile organic compounds such as benzene. The Railroad Commission will send a notice to the thousands of Texas operators as part of its “stripout” notice in March.
Monthly, the agency calculates the next month's allowable production rate for every eligible Texas well – otherwise known as a stripout notice. On occasion, the Railroad Commission also uses the stripout to provide notice to operators of important information, such as this.
“We are essentially telling oil, gas, and pipeline operators that they need to step up their efforts to ensure they are conducting their business in a safe and environmentally friendly manner,” stated Chairman Carrillo. “I’m urging operators to get out there and make sure they double check their operations. If a valve is leaking, fix it; if a thief hatch is open, close it. Don’t wait for us to come inspect the facility and require you to fix the problem. All of industry should be proactive about undertaking regular, ongoing inspection and maintenance of wells, valves, pipelines, tanks, hatches, and other equipment to assure full adherence to applicable rules.” The Railroad Commissions Oil & Gas Division performed over 128,000 inspections last year.
“By and large, Texas oil, gas, and pipeline operators continue to do an excellent job in regular maintenance and upkeep but it is prudent, particularly in this environment of heightened awareness and often false accusations, to be ever-vigilant to ensure that our Texas energy sector continues to be the economic development and job creation powerhouse that it is today.”
This notice comes on the heals of a concerted effort by Chairman Carrillo to approach this topic with common sense and attempt to be helpful to other agencies, local communities and concerned citizens. Recently, Chairman Carrillo traveled to Dallas to discuss these issues with newly appointed EPA Region 6 Administrator Dr. Al Armendariz.
“Dr. Armendariz and I had a good visit. I extended an olive branch and offered to help work on well-reasoned, practical solutions regarding issues facing the agencies. I truly hope the Railroad Commission and the EPA can find common ground on our approach to the issues before us. However, I refuse to irrationally overreact to this situation. I still stand by my position that a drilling moratorium, like the one demanded of the Railroad Commission by Representative Lon Burnam (Dem - Ft. Worth) would be a drastic overreaction based on the currently available science and facts.”
“I refuse to send tens of thousands of Texans to the unemployment line at a time when jobs are needed most. Make no mistake -- a drilling moratorium would do exactly that,” explained Carrillo. “We need to monitor this situation and address air emissions in a practical and reasonable manner. The stripout notice is an excellent step in that direction.”
Please see Chairman Carrillo's suggested stripout notice below.
A native of Abilene, Governor Rick Perry appointed Victor Carrillo to the Texas Railroad Commission in 2003. In 2004, Carrillo won his first statewide election garnering almost 3.9 million votes and making him the highest-ranking elected Hispanic official in Texas. Carrillo, whose term expires in 2010, intends to run again. A licensed attorney and geoscientist, Carrillo previously served on the Abilene City Council and as Taylor County Judge.
RAILROAD COMMISSION OF TEXAS
NOTICE TO OIL, GAS & PIPELINE OPERATORS REGARDING AIR EMISSIONS
Concentrated natural gas activity in the Barnett Shale in several Texas counties near Fort Worth has recently led to enhanced scrutiny of air emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like benzene. Complying with certain Railroad Commission regulations related to well and pipeline control, maintenance, and conservation can minimize gas and other releases and the potential negative impact such releases may have on air quality.
Under Statewide Rule 13, the operator is responsible for compliance during all operations at the well, and must effectively control the well at all times. A leaking wellhead may create an undesirable air emission and be a violation of Rule 13 for failure to control the well. Statewide Rule 32 allows a certain amount of gas venting from E&P operations, but imposes limits on authorized venting for the purpose of conserving gas. Exceeding authorized venting pressures may create an undesirable air emission and is not a legal use of gas. Venting in excess of authorized limits may also indicate the need for equipment maintenance and/or equipment failure.
Recently, at two sites located in Wise County, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) measured benzene at levels above 180 parts per billion – TCEQ’S short term, health-based comparison level. These emissions were attributable to two minor mechanical valve maintenance/failure issues that were quickly and easily repaired. These are examples of the need for regular maintenance and/or repair of equipment failure that may indicate a possible violation of Rule 13 or unauthorized venting under Rule 32 if the gas venting exceeds 24 hours.
Railroad Commission rules relating to well control and conservation require ongoing monitoring and maintenance to ensure that all valves are controlled, hatches are shut and equipment is working properly and in a manner authorized by and consistent with our rules.
Compliance with these provisions may help control air emissions and we hereby urge you to undertake regular, ongoing inspection and maintenance of your wells, valves, pipelines, tanks, hatches, and other equipment to assure full adherence to applicable rules.
Information relating to cost-effective emission reduction practices/technologies may be found at:
Information regarding Barnett Shale E&P activities and air emissions may be found at:
|ELIZABETH A. JONES
|VICTOR G. CARRILLO
|MICHAEL L. WILLIAMS