Press Release

Rep. Cuellar Helps to Reduce Methane Gas Emissions in Shale Formations

Language, funds in FY17 Energy and Water Appropriations bill to limit methane gas emissions from flaring and venting in shale formations

WASHINGTON, April 20, 2016 | Riley Brands ((202) 225-1640)
Today Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28) announced the successful inclusion of language and funds in the FY 2017 House Energy and Water Appropriations bill to limit methane gas emissions from flaring and venting, different types of release of release of natural gas, in shale formations such as the Eagle Ford Shale in the 28th Congressional District. Venting, unlike flaring, does not remove impurities and causes the release of unburned fossil fuel directly into the atmosphere.

Specifically, the language directs funding for natural gas infrastructure research to projects limiting such shale-formation methane gas emissions. It also recommends:

·         $24.7 million for the area of natural gas technologies research, which includes:

                       $10 million for research into the most responsible ways to remove methane hydrates, a vast resource that is currently inaccessible but has greater energy reserves than all other known fossil fuels combined

                        $6 million for development of natural gas technologies that are more efficient and environmentally sound

                       $5.2 million for a data management system in shale formations that weighs risk

                       $3.5 million for natural gas infrastructure research and development

The language encourages the U.S. Department of Energy to examine activities that curtail methane gas emissions in shale formations.

Although carbon dioxide makes up a larger share of the atmosphere and lingers much longer than methane, methane traps 20 times as much heat in the earth’s atmosphere as does carbon dioxide. In 2014, natural gas systems accounted for the greatest source of methane emissions across the country, according to the EPA.

Limiting methane emissions in shale formations will greatly help our air quality and the environment.

“Texans and their families depend on the great jobs provided in the natural resources industry,” Congressman Cuellar said. “My congressional district is home to some of the most active natural gas producing sites in the country, such as the Eagle Ford Shale.

“Making sure Texans have good-paying jobs has always been a priority of mine, as is protecting our environment for the benefit of all communities. This is why I encourage lower methane gas emissions and the development of technology and research that will encourage safe and responsible energy production in the United States. Reducing the loss of methane has the potential to be beneficial to both the environment and the economy. I would like to thank Energy and Water Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (R-ID-2) and Ranking Member Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-9) for their help in including this language.”

In the case of Texas, methane emissions from the oil and gas industry are expected to grow by 4.5 percent from 2011 through 2018, largely due to flaring from flare stacks, a result of inadequate pipeline in the state’s energy regions. When flaring doesn’t remove impurities in raw natural gas as it is supposed to, venting, the release of unburned fossil fuel directly into the atmosphere, occurs. Flaring and venting only increased as drilling activity picked up in the Eagle Ford Shale. In 2012, energy firms in the Eagle Ford Shale lost 21 billion cubic feet of natural gas through flaring and venting, while in 2013 they lost 35 billion cubic feet, according to an analysis done by the San Antonio Express-News.

The Express-News analysis found that

·         No region in Texas flared as much gas as the Eagle Ford Shale. From the beginning of the energy boom in 2009 to 2012, flaring and venting across the state surged by 400 percent to 33 billion cubic feet. Nearly two-thirds of that gas came from the Eagle Ford.

·         The rate of flaring was 10 times higher in the Eagle Ford than in all the state’s other oil fields combined.

New research is being done in natural gas technologies and infrastructure to encourage fewer losses of natural gas and less local pollution. This is important research being undertaken to reduce flaring, venting and methane leakage represents an important step forward in keeping our economies vibrant while also protecting our communities.

In addition to the flaring and venting language, Cuellar included language in the bill that recognizes the demand for natural gas in heating and powering homes and buildings across the country. The language Congressman Cuellar secured encourages the U.S. Department of Energy to explore research opportunities that will help meet U.S. energy needs through the use of natural gas.

To view the language, please click here.