oil and natural gas | KERA News

oil and natural gas

Bob Daemmrich / BDP, Inc.

When Kathy Whitmire ran for Houston mayor in 1981, helicopters were among the top sources of municipal strife. Residents of the Memorial neighborhood were irate over the daily noise of west Houston businesspeople who opted to fly over the gridlocked freeways for their morning commutes.

That's just how over the top the Texas economy had become as oil prices skyrocketed in the 1970s and into the early 1980s.

Business Has Reopened In Texas, But The Economy Won't Be Back Anytime Soon, Experts Say

May 8, 2020
A gas flare in the Eagle Ford oil patch south of San Antonio.
Jordan Vonderhaar for the Texas Tribune

The Texas economy has been protected unlike elsewhere in the country during some of the nation’s most devastating downturns.

In Texas, a proposal to cut the amount of crude that oil companies are allowed to pump from the ground appears dead. The regulator who proposed it — Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton — says commissioners "still are not ready to act" on the plan, which would have cut production 20% to try and stabilize prices amid a historic oil glut. Regulators had been expected to vote on the plan Tuesday.

With the global economy in a pandemic-induced coma, the world just doesn't need a lot of oil.

But oil is still flowing out of wells, and with nowhere else to go, it's filling up the world's storage tanks. The oversupply is so intense that this week U.S. oil prices briefly went negative.

But why is that oil still flowing, anyway? Why don't producers turn off the spigot when demand falls?

Updated at 4:53 p.m. ET

The dramatic collapse in worldwide demand for oil led to an extraordinary development on Monday: U.S. oil prices fell below zero for the first time ever, and kept falling.

The key U.S. oil benchmark, West Texas Intermediate, settled at negative $37.63.

Driven by a trading contract deadline, traders desperately looked for buyers for the barrels of oil they normally hold in their books. But buyers were hard to find — even when the oil was being given away for free.

Thanks in large part to cratering oil demand brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and global shutdowns, state regulators in Texas are considering doing something they haven't done in nearly 50 years: limiting the amount of oil they allow companies to pump from the ground.

As Oil Price Crisis Grips The Globe, Small Texas Producers Feel The Ripple Effects

Apr 7, 2020
Shutterstock

For decades in the tiny Texas panhandle town of Perryton, John Bozeman has bought oil and gas wells from companies and says he operated them for a lower cost and with better efficiency.

Louis Vest / Provided by The Texas Tribune

Eight years ago, two environmental nonprofits sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The agency was a decade overdue in updating limits on how much hazardous air pollution the country's oil refineries could emit; the groups hoped a lawsuit would force it to act.

The head of the Texas Oil and Gas Association said Tuesday his group agrees fossil fuels contribute to global warming and that the industry will find ways to reduce emissions.

U.S. Is Not 'Energy Independent,' Despite Trump's Claims

Jan 13, 2020
President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally Jan. 9, in Toledo, Ohio.
Associated Press

Iran has vowed revenge on the United States for the assassination of General Qasem Solemani. In the past, Iran has responded to attacks by targeting oil infrastructure and tankers around the Persian Gulf. So, just how vulnerable is Texas, and Houston specifically, to Iranian retaliation?

TPC Group Plant Explosion
Marie D. De Jesus / Houston Chronicle via Assocated Press

Environmental and watchdog groups have long criticized the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for taking it too easy on polluters — and the TCEQ has often countered that its job is to coax industrial facilities into compliance rather than slap them with big fines.

When the Trump administration announced plans to roll back Obama-era rules limiting methane emissions from oil and gas operations, even some in industry cried foul. Many saw the regulations as a modest attempt to curb Earth-heating emissions.

A natural gas flare burns in Pecos County in West Texas.
Marjorie Kamys Cotera / The Texas Tribune

A major pipeline operator is suing the Texas Railroad Commission — the state agency that regulates oil and gas drilling — alleging that it has blatantly disregarded longstanding state law that restricts the controversial and growing practice of burning off natural gas.

On a quiet street overlooking Scotland's largest refinery and chemical plant, Kevin Ross surveys the newest outgrowth of the American oil and gas boom.

Since 2016, natural gas from the U.S. has been feeding the Grangemouth petrochemical plant, a vast complex of cooling towers, flaring towers and pipelines. The gas is originally harvested in Western Pennsylvania, sent through a pipeline to Philadelphia, and put on ships across the Atlantic.

Associated Press

Two political supporters of U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry secured a potentially lucrative oil and gas exploration deal from the Ukrainian government soon after Perry proposed one of the men as an adviser to the country's new president.

A pumpjack with oil on the ground in Pecos County in West Texas
Marjorie Kamys Cotera / For The Texas Tribune

West Texas has seen a dramatic increase in earthquakes, jumping from 19 in 2009 to 1,600 in 2017 alone, according to a new study published Monday by the University of Texas at Austin.

Associated Press

The Environmental Protection Agency took public testimony in Dallas on Thursday on plans to weaken federal methane emission standards.

Those Obama-era rules require oil and gas companies to monitor and fix methane leaks from their pipelines and storage facilities.

The city of Austin is signaling it intends to sue Kinder Morgan, the company behind the proposed Permian Highway Pipeline — a 430-mile natural gas line that has provoked major opposition in the Texas Hill Country. In filing its Notice of Intent to sue, Austin joins opposition already being mounted by San Marcos, Kyle, the Barton Springs Aquifer Conservation District and a property-owner group called the TREAD Coalition

Emergency managers from Bexar and surrounding counties gathered Thursday for a workshop to help them prepare for natural disasters; not for floods or tornadoes or hurricanes — but for earthquakes.


Charles Chaney Jr. has Utopia on his mind. The Texas City resident is a month away from retirement, and Utopia is the name of the scenic Hill Country town where his family has lived for generations. He had planned to build a house on land he owns there near his brother and sister.

Now, he’s not so sure.

Associated Press

T. Boone Pickens, a brash and quotable oil tycoon who grew even wealthier through corporate takeover attempts, died Wednesday. He was 91.

A law went into effect in Texas this week that increases penalties for demonstrators who interfere with oil and gas pipelines and other pieces of "critical infrastructure."

Associated Press

The Trump administration moved Thursday to revoke regulations on methane leaks from oil facilities, a proposal environmental advocates said would renounce key federal authority to regulate the climate-damaging gas.

Harris County and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality are suing Exxon Mobil for allegedly violating the Texas Clean Air Act and Texas Water Code, during a fire that broke out at the company’s oil refinery in Baytown on Wednesday.

From Texas Standard:

A recently-published health study indicates expectant mothers living near extensive oil and gas development run a higher risk of having children with birth defects.

Associated Press

The cleanup of millions of gallons of waste and polluted water is far from over four months after a large fire burned for days at a Houston-area petrochemical storage site.

A Travis County judge has ruled construction on a natural gas pipeline through the Texas Hill Country can proceed. The state district court decision Tuesday marks a major setback for landowners and local governments that sued to stop energy company Kinder Morgan from using eminent domain to build the pipeline.

A public meeting Tuesday on a planned natural gas pipeline in Central Texas often felt more like a protest, as Hays County residents shared concerns about the project and speakers vowed to fight it.

A fight over a pipeline is never only about the pipeline. It’s about the environment, property rights, public safety and a community’s sense of itself. Just such a fight is now brewing in the Texas Hill Country, where company Kinder Morgan plans to lay a part of its 430-mile natural gas Permian Highway Pipeline.

The spring-fed pool, photographed in 2006, at Balmorhea State Park has been closed since last May.
Associated Press

An oil and gas company operating in West Texas has donated $1 million to reach the fundraising goal for repairs to what's touted as the world's largest spring-fed swimming pool.

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