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SOURCE: Financial Times

DATE: January 4, 2019

SNIP: The powerful telescopes of Texas’s McDonald Observatory aim at some of the darkest night skies on the planet. But a dome of light is creeping closer on the northern horizon.

The glow emanates from the booming oilfields of the Permian Basin, lit up by flares of burning natural gas. So much gas has bubbled up from the oil wells in the area that it has overwhelmed pipelines needed to take it to market. Rather than wait for new gas pipelines to arrive, bottling up lucrative oil production in the process, energy companies are incinerating the methane.

Flaring means the gas will never be used by consumers. It is also forgone revenue for energy producers and tax authorities. The pollution emitted is significant, even if carbon dioxide released in flaring traps far less heat in the atmosphere than methane gas.

The US government estimates the basin’s oil production has risen by nearly 1m barrels per day in the past year to 3.8m b/d, as the US has regained its position as the world’s largest crude producer. The amount of gas flared in the Permian, meanwhile, averaged 209m cubic feet per day in 2017, according to data compiled by Rystad Energy, a research company. In the third quarter of 2018 it hit a record 407m cu ft/d — roughly the consumption of the state of Nebraska. By the second quarter of 2019 it will surpass 600m cu ft/d, the consultancy estimates.

Read the whole story at the Financial Times.