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Oil Giants In Permian Will Use New Technology To Track Methane Emissions

Gas is burned off from an oil well in West Texas. (GABRIEL C. PÉREZ / KUT)

By Kyra Buckley, Houston Public Media

Oil producers in the Permian Basin are implementing new technology to better measure methane emissions. 

The computer program will help oil and gas companies track how much methane they're emitting, and what methods are best reducing methane leaks. It was created by the nonprofit environmental group, the Rocky Mountain Institute, along with the firm SphericalAnalytics. 

It comes as many investors, lawmakers, and environmental groups have been pressuring the oil and gas industry to not only address climate change, but to also reduce the wasteful practice of flaring — controllably burning off gas that, for whatever reason, isn’t going to market. 

In 2019, Rystad Energy reports the amount of gas flared in the Permian Basin could have powered more than 7 million U.S. homes for a year.

"By bringing data, intelligence and people together onto one, single platform, Rocky Mountain Institute is enabling climate solutions for the oil and gas industry that work for the benefit of the climate, companies, countries, and people," Taku Ide, principal at the Institute, wrote in a statement.

Ide added they hope to expand the technology to measure more human made greenhouse gas emission sources. 

Oil giants Exxon, Chevron, and Shell are among the first companies that will use the data collection program. 

"Combining data and AI on a single platform is an innovation that could enhance our methane emissions management," read a statement from Shell VP of Shales US Frits Klap, "and supports Shell's ambition to become a net zero emissions energy business by 2050 or sooner."

Last month, the Trump administration  rolled back Obama-era regulations requiring that oil and gas companies track and repair methane leaks.

Carlos Morales is Marfa Public Radio's News Director.