Articles Posted in Texas Railroad Commission

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Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton announced today that he would withdraw his motion to prorate Texas oil production prior to the Commission hearing tomorrow, saying “proration is now dead.” Commissioner Christian had previously announced his opposition; Commissioner Craddick is evidently also opposed.

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Commissioner Ryan Sitton has published his proposed conditional order imposing proration on oil production in Texas, to be considered at the Commission’s hearing on May 5.

Commissioner Wayne Christian, in an op ed in the Houston Chronicle, has come out against the proposal.

Sitton’s proposed order is attached to the Commission’s May 5 hearing agenda. His proposal follows the recommendation he described at the Commission’s prior open meeting on April 14. The Commission received 888 comments prior to that meeting, and more than 50 individuals presented live comments during the meeting.

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The Texas Railroad Commission at open meeting today considered Pioneer and Parsley’s petition asking the Commission to institute oil proration. Commissioner Sitton moved to institute proration, conditioned on other states and countries committing to a total of 4 mm bbls/day additional reduction in oil production by June 1. Sitton’s motion provided that each Texas operator would be required to reduce its production by 20% effective June 1, amounting to 1 mm bbls/day of Texas production, but exempting operators producing less than 1,000 bbls/day. Sitton got no second on the motion.

Commissioner Christian announced he has appointed a blue-ribbon panel to study the issue. He named only associations – TxOGA, TIPRO, Panhandle PRA,O and Permian Basin PA, and Pipeline Association — and not individuals, to be on that panel.

Commissioner Craddick said she wanted staff to present “all options” for how to institute proration and wanted guidance from the Texas Attorney General as to what was legal before taking any action, commenting that any action by the Commission is bound to end up in litigation.

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The Texas Railroad Commission heard comments yesterday in a virtual open meeting on the proposal from Pioneer and Parsley that the Commission re-institute proration of Texas oil wells in response to the drastic reduction of world oil demand. Unsurprisingly, those providing comments did not agree.Top-Ten

In general, the division was between majors and independents – though not totally.

Marathon, Ovintiv, and Diamondback opposed proration, as did TxOGA, Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, the American Petroleum Institute, Texas Pipeline Association, Plains All American Pipeline, and Enterprise Products Partners. Parsley and Pioneer testified in favor of proration, as did Latigo Petroleum, Discovery Operating, Elevation Resources, and former Railroad Commissioner and Congressman Kent Hance. Surprisingly, Quantum Energy, a major independent, testified in favor. In addition, the following provided written comments in favor of proration: Continental Resources, CrownQuest, Hibernia Resources, Texas American Resources, the Panhandle Producers and Royalty Owners Association, and Permian Basin Petroleum Association. Those submitting written comments opposing proration included Chevron, Cimarex, Concho, ConocoPhillips, EOG, Occidental, TXO, and former Commissioner Michael Williams. Written comments can be viewed on the Commission website, here.

Arguments against proration included: Continue reading →

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The failure of Saudi Arabia and Russia to agree on reductions in oil production, combined with the crash in demand caused by COVID-19, are blamed for the rapid decline in oil prices and the glut in supply. But looking back, it can be argued that another cause is the rapid rise in US oil production since 2010.

oil-production-chartUS producers have relied on OPEC to regulate the world oil price, while ramping up their production. Maybe US producers should take some responsibility as well.

Texas accounts for 41% of US oil production, and increased production from the Permian is the principal driver of increased oil production in the US.

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Pioneer Natural Resources and Parsley Energy sent a letter to the Texas Railroad Commission formally requesting that it institute proration in Texas oil fields. Scott Sheffield and Matt Gallagher concluded:

We thus implore you to act as stewards of Texas’s oil resources and to support rationally tailored actions – consistent with the Commissions state mission – to “enhance development and economic vitality for the benefit of Texans.” As the chief executive officers of the second and tenth largest oil producers in the State of Texas, we are responsible for the employment of thousands of employees by our companies and our contractors. It is on their behalf, as well as other companies that share our concerns, that we submit this request.

Read the letter here: Parsley Pioneer letter to RRC

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As evidenced by the fight between Williams MLP Operating and EXCO Operating over EXCO’s flaring of Eagle Ford wells on the Briscoe Ranch, now pending on appeal in the 345th District Court of Travis County, flaring continues to be an issue in Texas. I thought a little history might enlighten the subject.

Controversy over gas flaring is not new. In the 1940’s flaring of gas was also an issue in Texas, and the Texas Railroad Commission successfully fought to reduce flaring as a waste of Texas’ valuable resource.

In the early days of oil exploration and production there was very little market for natural gas. It could not be stored and had to be transported by pipeline. In 1930 oil sold for about a dollar a barrel, and gas sold for 3.6 cents per mcf. Six mcf of methane gas produces the same heat as one barrel of oil. So based on heat equivalency, oil was five times more valuable than gas.

The giant Panhandle Gas Field was discovered in 1918 with the completion of the Masterson No. 1. Three additional wells soon followed, and those four wells were tested in March 1920 at 160 million cubic feet per day. Initially no one could be found to buy the gas. The City of Amarillo spent $60,000 advertising the resource but found no buyers. The city offered free gas for five years to any industry that would move to Amarillo. No takers.

But, by 1929 several gas pipelines were laid to move the gas to distant markets and fifty-three gasoline plants and twenty-four carbon black plants had been constructed. The value of gas had been realized. Continue reading →

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The fight between Williams and Exco over whether Exco can continue to flare gas from its wells has moved to District Court in Travis County.

Exco filed an application with the Texas Railroad Commission for permission to flare gas from more than 130 Eagle Ford oil wells on the Briscoe Ranch. Exco bought the wells from Chesapeake. Williams protested Exco’s application. It owns the gathering system, which it purchased from Mockingbird Midstream, at that time an affiliate of Chesapeake.  Under RRC Rule 32, a company must obtain a permit to flare gas. After a hearing, the administrative law judge recommended that the permit be granted, and the RRC granted the permit.

Exco’s wells had been connected to the Williams gathering system and dedicated to the gathering contract between Chesapeake and Mockinbird Midstream when the two companies were affiliated. Exco and Williams disputed whether the Exco wells were still under that contract. Exco was in bankruptcy, and that dispute was in the bankruptcy court.

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Excellent investigative reporting by Texas Tribune on how the Texas Railroad Commission fails to enforce state and federal laws requiring restoration of coal mines. “Texas coal companies are leaving behind contaminated land. The state is letting them.” Mirrors my experience with trying to get the RRC to force E&P companies to clean up their messes. Also echoes similar problems with abandoned coal mines in West Virginia.

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Much has been written lately about flares of natural gas in the Permian Basin. A website called Skytruth provides a helpful interactive map allowing amazing satellite views of flares over time. Here’s a snapshot of flares in the Permian (click on image to enlarge):

Permian-flaresOne can zoom in on the map and locate each flare. This one is just east of US 285 southeast of Orla:

FlareSince the beginning of the boom in the Permian, the Texas Railroad Commission has never denied an operator’s application for a permit to flare. With low gas prices and lack of pipeline capacity, operators have turned to flaring gas in order to produce oil.

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