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Gas Operators Leaking $52 Million a Year in DFW

May 25, 2011

Report: Pollution Controls Would Earn DFW Gas

Operators $52 Million Annually

 “Industry has run out of excuses to do the right thing says clean air group. Demands State add more Shale pollution to regional air plan June 8th.

Gas companies, their shareholders, and local mineral rights owners could gain $52 million a year in increased revenues by installing simple air pollution control devices in the DFW nine-county “non-attainment area” for ozone, or smog.   

 “Leaking Money: Potential Revenues from Reduction of Natural Gas and Condensate Emissions in North Central Texas” by Dr. Melanie Sattler Ph.D.,P.E, was commissioned by local citizens group Downwinders at Risk to provide the first estimate of monetary losses to the gas industry as a result of continuing to allow intentional releases of smog-forming Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in the DFW area.   

 Citing controls already in use by gas operators, and quoting current market prices for gas and its various chemical constituents, Dr. Sattler estimates that the industry could collect product worth $51.9 million annually from installation of those controls in the non-attainment area’s nine-counties, plus Wise County.  

 Wise County was included in the report because of its concentration of gas facilities and the likelihood of it being officially included in the DFW ozone area when a new federal standard for the pollutant is announced this summer. 

 “We’ve known for some time that the technology was readily available to dramatically reduce this kind of pollution,” said Downwinders Director Jim Schermbeck. “Now we can point to millions in new profits that could be made if it was uniformly installed in our region, a region that’s been violating the Clean Air Act for 20 years and needs the gas industry to do its fair share for cleaner air. With this report, the industry and TCEQ have officially run out of excuses.”   

 Control technologies for VOC pollution in the gas field can capture escaping fumes, or prevent their leakage, reducing waste and adding to product inventory for the gas operator.

 Dr. Sattler’s was the latest development in a two-week-old “Fair Share” campaign launched by the group to try to get the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to include gas pollution in the current DFW air plan scheduled for a TCEQ vote in Austin on June 8th.  

 VOC pollution from the gas industry has grown significantly in the last six years, to the point where the TCEQ concludes it now accounts for more annual tonnage than all the cars and trucks in DFW combined. Because this growth in emissions has happened so recently, it’s never been addressed in any previous DFW air plans.

 Since May 9th, Dallas County, DISH, Flower Mound, Bartonville have all unanimously passed “Fair Share” resolutions, with Southlake committed to a June 7th passage. More votes on similar resolutions around the region are pending. On Wednesday morning, the Council of Government’s Oil and Gas Sub-Committee is expected to vote on approving a letter to TCEQ echoing these local officials’ call for including more Shale pollution in the plan.

 Last Friday at 5pm, TCEQ released a “revision” to the DFW plan that for the first time proposed modest cuts in Shale pollution – 14 tons per day from new controls on condensate tanks. But Schermbeck contrasted the size of those new cuts with the 100-tons-a-day of VOC pollution the Commission has said gas facilities emit in DFW. “What TCEQ is proposing is just a drop in the bucket compared with what could and should happen on June 8th.”  

 He cited one of the conclusions of the “Leaking Money” report in making the charge that the state was still avoiding easy answers in clamping down on gas pollution.  

 “Using TCEQ and industry numbers, Dr. Sattler shows that just replacing small valves in gas industry equipment in the 9 county area plus Wise County would decrease VOC pollution by 71 tons a day while bringing in $35 million in revenue. That’s five times the drop in pollution that the TCEQ “revision” on Friday promises. Just by replacing valves!”   

 Schermbeck also pointed out that because of historically low prices for gas, the report’s revenue estimates were a worst-case estimate, and bound to rise with the cost of natural gas. Despite these low prices the report concludes that “most retrofit investments pay for themselves in little over a year, and replacements in as little as 6 months.”

 “We have no doubt that some industry spokespeople will find reason to quibble with our numbers – even though Dr. Sattler’s math is based on industry and TCEQ sources. We encourage them to do their own studies and show how many millions of dollars their companies, shareholders, and mineral rights partners would reap from doing the right thing and cutting their pollution.”


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