The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission fined two well operators $1,000 each for violating flaring rules.
In the cases presented at the commission’s Tuesday hearing, Anadarko E&P Onshore LLC and Samson Resources Co. burned natural gas from oil wells past a deadline.
Flaring is an industry practice that’s increasingly coming under scrutiny in Wyoming. A state Legislature committee is considering charging a severance tax for natural gas that’s flared. Critics of flaring say the state loses out on tax revenue because operators aren’t gathering and selling the natural gas.
Houston-based Anadarko flared at a well in Johnson County, and Samson Resources Co. flared at a well in Johnson County and a well in Campbell County.
In the case of Anadarko, the commission gave it permission to flare natural gas until April 24, according to commission documents.
But the company continued to flare after that date, said Eric A. Easton, an attorney with Wyoming Attorney General’s Office who assists the commission.
“There was a gap before they received subsequent permission,” Easton said.
Anadarko officials reported the violation to the state, Easton said.
“We all make mistakes, and welcome to the human race,” said Wyoming State Geologist Tom Drean, a commissioner. “I guess my question is, what has Anadarko done to avoid this happening in the future?”
Anadarko employee Bill Gonzalez said that the company normally uses a spreadsheet to track when key permit dates on wells expire.
“In this case, we failed to input that information for this well,” he said.
The company now has a monitoring system to notify company employees of dates, he said.
Dennis Ellis, a Cheyenne-based government relations adviser for Anadarko, said the company will pay the fine.
“We always strive to operate in adherence to all regulations and in a manner that protects the environment, and when we realized flaring had occurred beyond the permitted date, we self-reported to the regulator and agreed to pay the appropriate penalty,” Ellis said in an email.
In the case of Samson, both wells were flared after completion. Completion is the work done on a well after drilling to ready it for production. Operators frequently flare after completion, Easton said.
“Under the rules there are 15 days they can flare, as part of the completion process,” Easton said. “It was after that 15 days that they needed approval.”
The Johnson County well was completed on April 26. The Campbell County well was completed Feb. 22, commission documents state. But flaring occurred after, Easton said.
Dawn H. Darling of Samson said that the company has worked out a remedy so it doesn’t happen again.
“Our operations technician in our Power River Basin operating group, he will be setting up an email alert through our email system,” she said.
The alerts will notify key employees as flaring deadlines approach, she said.
Kim Harding, Samson Resources spokeswoman, said that the company will pay the fine.
“We are committed to excellence in safety and environmental stewardship in all of our operations,” Harding said in an email. “We accept the stipulations applied by the state commission today. We take these violations very seriously and have implemented actions to improve compliance in the future.”
Grant Black, Wyoming state oil and gas supervisor, said that it’s common for companies to self-report flaring violations.
“It shows good faith,” he said.