Modern businesses are built on efficiency. Competition and razor-thin margins drive business to limit waste and maximize value. The oil and gas business is no different.
That is why efforts underway in Colorado to end the wasteful practice of routine venting (releasing) and flaring (or simply burning off) of valuable natural gas resources make so much economic sense.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) has an opportunity later this month to limit the waste of Colorado’s natural gas resources by putting an end to routine venting and flaring. This would be an action that is both good for our air and our economy.
Colorado has time and time again demonstrated that it is possible to achieve both smart regulations that protect our health and environment and to ensure economic vitality. Perhaps no policy better exemplifies this than Regulation 7, Colorado’s landmark rule overseeing methane emissions from oil and gas production.
Initially rolled out in 2014, the Regulation 7 has been so successful that it became a model for the Obama Administration’s methane regulations and set a gold-standard to measure against the work of other states such as New Mexico and Pennsylvania that are currently undertaking rulemakings to address their own methane concerns.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. Just look at the data. Since Regulation 7 was implemented, the number of leaks reported have dropped significantly, while production of oil and gas has increased. However, as truly impactful as this policy has been, there remains more work to be done.
Specifically, the rule did not address the common practice of venting or flaring, or the controlled burning of natural gas, at production sites. This omission has led to the proliferation of some bad practices by producers leading to serious outcomes. For example, 83% of the natural gas produced in Jackson County is vented or flared.
This practice makes no sense from a business or health perspective. Due to flaring, Colorado businesses waste more than $12 million of natural gas each year through venting and flaring. These practices also release methane and carbon dioxide into the environment, both of which contribute to climate change.
Due to the passage of SB-181, the COGCC is required to regulate in a manner that reduces waste and addresses public health and environmental concerns. There is no doubt that addressing venting and flaring practices in the state is critical to fulfilling this mandate.
Thankfully, the technology exists today to capture wasteful pollution while creating jobs and expanding our economy. Methane mitigation companies are a burgeoning industry in Colorado, bringing high-paying, quality jobs to the state for both entry-level and highly skilled employees.
A majority of these companies are small businesses with diverse workforces and opportunities for expansion. The industry already boasts dozens of locations across the state, such as company headquarters, manufacturing facilities, sales centers and leak detection and repair services.
For example, Honeywell has developed a technology that can capture natural gas on site and avoids the need for new gathering lines. Another company, Questor Technology, develops and deploys more efficient flares to reduce the amount of pollution emitted into our atmosphere.
We appreciate the leadership shown by Gov. Jared Polis to implement these rules and call upon COGCC to end routine flaring, so that Colorado can continue to be a national beacon, whereby environmental and economic concerns can be turned into an opportunity for job growth and a higher quality of life for its citizens.
Isaac Brown is the executive director of the Center for Methane Emission Solutions, a coalition of businesses in the methane mitigation industry.
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