Recent satellite data estimates companies in the Permian Basin burned away at least 275 billion cubic feet of methane last year—that’s enough gas to serve nearly 5 million homes for a year.While this waste problem has been well documented, much less has been known about methane emissions from flares.We’ve conducted multiple surveys of hundreds of flare stacks across the basin, which reveal methane emissions from flaring are a significant and widespread problem.More than one out of 10 flares were either unlit – venting completely uncombusted methane – or burning only part of the gas they were releasing.The Environmental Protection Agency assumes companies flare gas at a 98% efficiency rate. Our surveys suggest the average in the basin falls well short of this. We estimate approximately 7% of Permian gas sent to flares is escaping directly into the atmosphere. This means companies are emitting 3.5 times more methane than what EPA assumes.At this rate, flaring can now be considered one of the largest sources of methane emissions in the Permian basin.
FLARING SURVEY FINDINGS
Aerial surveys conducted between February and March 2020
25 percent of malfunctioning flares had recurring emissions problems in both surveys
of flares surveyed
flares that were
TOTAL METRIC TONS OF METHANE EMISSIONS FROM FLARING
*EPA assumes functioning flares have 98% flaring efficiency rate
The findings of this research make it clear that in order to reduce methane emissions from the Permian Basin and to curb the massive volume of natural gas waste, states and companies must move quickly to reduce the practice of flaring.
PermianMAP is an initiative of Environmental Defense Fund, a leading international nonprofit organization. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships to create transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems.