Emissions from tanks at Texas gas, oil sites lower than expected: TCEQ

Houston (Platts)--24 Mar 2014 556 pm EDT/2156 GMT

Emissions from tanks at oil and gas sites in Texas are "lower than what everyone has estimated," an official with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said Monday in Fort Worth.

Erin Selvera, special assistant in the TCEQ's air permits division, told attendees at the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association's annual convention that flyovers the commission authorized last summer recorded visible emissions from only about 5% of the tanks observed.

"They looked at over 16,000 different tanks in 23 counties in the Permian Basin and the Eagle Ford Shale," Selvera said on the sidelines of the conference. Using an infrared camera mounted to a helicopter, TCEQ found that approximately 800 tanks had "some type of visible emissions," Selvera said.

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The agency is now analyzing the data it collected from the flyovers, she said.

The presence of visible emissions does not necessarily indicate a violation of TCEQ rules, Selvera explained. "Some emissions are expected from storage tanks; some of them are likely permitted. We use that camera as a screening tool for our agency, so that we can begin the conversation with companies about any visible emission."

She noted that while the camera can observe a range of hydrocarbons, it cannot identify exactly what type of hydrocarbon is emitted, nor how much.

The emissions observed might be allowable within an operator's permit, she said, or they might be emissions of a type for which no permit is currently required, such as certain greenhouse gases.

"If those emissions are not above certain trigger levels, then there wouldn't be a specific authorization required, for them," Selvera said.

The TCEQ plans to follow up with those companies observed to have visible emissions coming from their tanks to determine whether or not the emissions are authorized, she said.

--Jim Magill, jim.magill@platts.com --Edited by Lisa Miller, lisa.miller@platts.com

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