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Texas Oil Drillers Debate How Much Natural Gas To Burn

Tod Baker
Flickr Creative Commons

Oil drillers in West Texas continue to face a quandary: How much of the natural gas they produce should be burned off?

As The Los Angeles Times noted this month, the problem has pitted producers against each other and set environmentalists and capitalists on a collision course. During the fracking process, extra natural gas is produced along with the oil.

Many drillers choose to burn off that natural gas, rather than piping it away for use in homes and businesses—but building that pipe isn’t cheap.

Texas has strict regulations to limit this so-called “flaring.” But now, regional gas prices are rising while oil production surges. Ending the cap on flaring would solve that problem, but it would also contribute to global warming.

Still, Texas is considering the move, though Ryan Sitton of the Texas Railroad Commission says the state is being cautious. “We want to be very thoughtful about what the ramifications could be,” he said.