The energy boom that transformed South Texas into an economic powerhouse also has created a prolific source of air pollution and wasted natural gas.
A yearlong investigation by the San Antonio Express-News shows that gas flares spreading across the Eagle Ford Shale are burning and wasting billions of cubic feet of natural gas.
Texas regulators didn’t know how much gas was going to waste in the shale region. But the Express-News analyzed the state’s own records and found no other region in Texas is flaring as much gas as the Eagle Ford Shale.
From 2009 to 2012, flares burned enough gas to supply every household that uses the fossil fuel in the San Antonio area – for a full year.
The raw gas coming out of flares isn’t the clean-burning methane found in your kitchen. Gas flares released more than 15,000 tons of volatile organic compounds and other contaminants into the air in 2012, according to state pollution estimates obtained by the Express-News.
Despite the state’s assurances that flaring is well regulated, the Express-News discovered that some of the top sources of flaring in the shale failed to obtain the necessary permits from the Railroad Commission of Texas, which oversees the oil and gas industry.
You can read Up in Flames on the Express-News’ premium site.