South Texas Energy and Economic Roundtable
South Texas Energy and Economic Roundtable

Environmental Stewardship


The Eagle Ford Shale has been an economic game changer for South Texas and has led to greater energy independence for our nation. The present oil and natural gas shale formations are developed with cutting-edge technology that not only sustains development but has also led to safer and cleaner operations for our industry and the communities where we operate. This atmosphere thrives on creativity and innovative solutions, fostering many processes and programs that safeguard the air near oil and natural gas development areas.

  • In the Eagle Ford, many operators use no-emission or low-emission controllers for various operations. These improve environmental performance by reducing emissions from field operations. Although this technology is being phased in as a mandate, companies have been implementing these controllers into daily operations well ahead of the EPA deadline.
  • Our industry has a culture and history of working within requirements of regulatory agencies like the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). STEER companies participated with AACOG and TCEQ, sharing data and other relevant information to support AACOG’s Clean Air Study.

Operators in the Eagle Ford are continually testing and implementing programs to lower emissions:

  • After drilling and hydraulic fracturing are complete, wells are tested to determine their flow rate. The results are essential in determining the equipment needed to move gas from the wellhead to the pipeline. When the smaller pipelines connected to individual wells are not in place, a high-efficiency technique known as flaring is employed to ensure emissions do not escape into the atmosphere. Flaring is safely combusting gas that cannot otherwise be transported efficiently. Far superior to venting, the process is classified by the EPA as an element of responsible “green completion” and is the preferred disposal method among regulators.
  • The oil and natural gas industry is actively developing, testing and applying new technologies to minimize emissions in operations and reduce flaring at Eagle Ford, providing economic and environmental benefits. This involves testing and implementing of equipment such as vapor recovery units and smokeless flares at the well site and central facilities. Operators are committed to minimizing the number of days of flaring that may occur between bringing a well on line and installing infrastructure to transport gas to sales or to be used in on-site operations.
  • The vapor recovery unit compresses the gas and converts the recovered vapor into a usable product. The goal is to minimize gas sent to the flare during completion operations, redirecting it instead to pipeline for sale. Natural gas is extremely valuable; most companies would rather capture gas and transport it to market through a pipeline or use the natural gas for operations instead of burning it. Using vapor recovery units has reduced the flaring of gas during completion operations anywhere from 79 to 99 percent. Vapor recovery units are custom fit for each location and use, from well sites, to central facilities and storage tanks.
  • The oil and natural gas community actively develops and applies new technologies to minimize the emissions associated with testing and cleanup of newly completed wells, and producers work to limit well production when using temporary testing facilities. New developments in flowback equipment and methodology are continually evaluated, and the flaring process is discontinued once local pipeline and distribution infrastructure is complete.
  • Since development of the Eagle Ford Shale began, industry has voluntarily conducted preventative monitoring across operations in the region. This includes using infrared cameras for detection of fugitive emissions. If abnormal conditions are found, companies act quickly to correct the situation.
  • Among the many qualified contractors supporting our team, some provide expertise that helps improve environmental performance in the Eagle Ford Shale region. Innovations include:
    • Using more efficient pumps for hydraulic fracturing, allowing one-third fewer pumps to do the work, thereby reducing carbon emissions as part of the well completion process
    • Using combined heat and power (CHP) system units. CHP is the simultaneous production of electricity and heat from a single fuel source. CHP is an integrated energy system that can be modified depending upon the needs of the energy end user. Increasing the use of low-emission microturbine systems in operations, reduces emissions and improves the efficiencies because less fuel is burned to produce each unit of energy output.
    • Evaluating dual fuel capability in equipment, like the Caterpillar Dynamic Gas Blend Units being tested in the Eagle Ford. These units reduce the amount of diesel used to power oil and gas operations and allow the use of natural gas from the site to power rigs.
    • New drilling rigs, electrical rigs, are replacing mechanical rigs. These rigs run on diesel-electric direct-current generators to power DC motors; lowering fuel consumption thus lowering the emission compared to mechanical rigs.
    • Implementing more Tier 4 diesel engines in drilling and completions processes. These efficient engines reduce emissions by up to 80 percent
    • Using solar-powered pumps rather than pneumatic pumps, a source of vented emissions.
    • Installing compressed natural gas (CNG) stations in South Texas and San Antonio for on-site fueling of vehicles. In addition, compressed CNG will be dispensed into storage containers and relocated to drilling sites for on-site fueling of drilling rigs.
    • Installing compression to lower sales line pressures and installing artificial lift at wells, both of which has reduced the need manually unload wells, a process which may include venting of emissions to the atmosphere.

Featured image: