The decision to permit or prevent the construction of new energy infrastructure is too often framed as a choice between economic imperatives and environmental concerns. A new analysis conducted by Rystead Energy and reported by E&E News undercuts that false dichotomy by demonstrating just how important new pipelines are to protecting the environmental wellbeing of Texas’ Permian Basin.
The Permian Basin’s status as one of the largest energy producing regions in the United States confers both prosperity and energy security. Those benefits are made possible by the pipelines that transport oil and natural gas safely out of the region. However, infrastructure construction has been outpaced by production, forcing producers to burn off excess fuel in a process known as flaring. Flaring wastes valuable energy and creates unnecessary emissions, and delays to new construction only exacerbates these issues. As the Rystead analysis concludes:
“If these projects are not approved early enough, the basin might end up with another period of degradation in local differentials and potentially increased gas flaring,” he said.
Fortunately, energy producers and environmental organizations agree on the need to reduce flaring. Given that the lack of sufficient pipeline capacity is accepted to be the primary source of the problem, obstacles to permitting and construction are both environmentally and economically damaging. In the words of Thure Cannon, president of the Texas Pipeline Association:
“The speedy approval of pipeline projects can have great environmental benefit by, among other things, reducing the amount of flaring that would otherwise occur,”… “this is even more reason why government should not hang these projects up with red tape, either at the state or federal levels.”
As energy production ramps up in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative that sufficient infrastructure exists to safely and efficiently transport oil and natural gas out of the Permian. To that end, it is crucial that projects like the Permian Highway Pipeline are completed so that they are operational as soon as possible. Bureaucratic impediments to infrastructure development will both stymie economic recovery and risk environmental harm.