Archive for the 'Natural gas wells' Category

Infrared video of emissions from University’s gas well site

The Oil and Gas Accountability Project (OGAP), sponsored by the environmental advocacy organization Earthworks, recently obtained a series of videos produced by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) showing infrared images of natural gas facilities emitting plumes of volatile gases not visible to the naked eye. Texas OGAP, a collaboration between OGAP and Texas activists, has now posted these videos on YouTube. One of the videos depicts emissions from the UT Arlington gas well site.

Last week TCEQ verified the authenticity of the YouTube video and provided me with three additional infrared videos of the University well site (see list of links below). One is a slightly revised version of the August  footage; it includes a visible-light photo of the installation and correctly identifies the operator of the equipment venting gases as DFW Midstream (the version on YouTube incorrectly indicates the operator is Carrizo Oil and Gas).

The other two were shot by agency personnel in October. One shows emissions from the same vent stack depicted in the August footage, which TCEQ staff member Ken Rozacky told me is part of a natural gas compressor. The second shows emissions from  a vent stack on equipment identified as a dehydrator.

OGAP obtained the original set of TCEQ infrared videos through a formal Public Information Request (aka open records request). The existence of TCEQ’s Barnett Shale videos was first widely publicized August 1 when local activists released a compilation of images entitled ”Un-clean, Un-natural, Un-healthy.” The video compilation juxtaposes conventional video images with infrared images in which volatile emissions are visible:

The composition of the vented gases is not identified in the videos of the UT Arlington site. The OGAP compilation video showing emissions at facilities across the region identifies the gases only as “hydrocarbon vapors” but also includes a long list of compounds that such emissions “could contain.”

Many of these are among substances whose presence downwind of the UT Arlington well site are periodically monitored by TCEQ. Analysis of an air sample that TCEQ personnel collected at the site in August 2008 confirmed the presence of numerous compounds, all apparently at concentrations below — and usually far below — the so-called Effects Screening Level, the level at which short-term effects would be expected to occur or at which odor would be deemed officially objectionable. The 2008 analysis does not identify the specific sources of these compounds, and it isn’t clear what impact the compressor and dehydrator vent stacks have on air quality in the vicinity of the facility.

Vice President for Communications Jerry Lewis asked me to convey two points about the legal status of emissions from the University site:

  • “NO UNPERMITTED EMISSIONS would show up in a video of these operations in August 2009 or at any point before or after that, including today. The … operation on campus is, and always has been, in full compliance with all local, state, and federal regulations related to air quality.”
  • “Neither [the operators] nor UT Arlington have been accused of ANY VIOLATIONS of air quality laws. Frequent and stringent air quality testing in the area — often in excess of what is customary for regulators — has been conducted to satisfy occasional complaints from a small handful of neighbors, yet there have been no violations found.”

Lewis also stated:

“… DFW Midstream’s facility includes a specific piece of equipment called a BTEX Eliminator, which is specifically designed to capture and destroy benzene and other similar material.”

A report on the gas industry’s impact on North Central Texas air quality was released in January by Southern Methodist University environmental engineer Al Armendariz, who served as a consultant on the OGAP video compilation project and has recently been appointed as administrator of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 6. Armendariz made a presentation at UT Arlington in November 2008.

Oil and Gas Accountability Project (OGAP)

Texas OGAP campaign

OGAP public information request, Oct. 20

Complete set of TCEQ videos  obtained by OGAP

DFW Midstream

Additional TCEQ videos:

Infrared video of compressor vent stack, August 25

Infrared video of compressor vent stack, October 10

Infrared video of dehydrator vent stack, October 10

Armendariz report, January 2009

Neighborhood residents protest gas wells

Residents of the neighborhood adjacent to the university’s gas wells held a protest Tuesday to call attention to their ongoing concern that noise and fumes from the well facility are harming their health and their quality of life.

Shorthorn story, 10/7/09

Star-Telegram story, 10/7/09

AASHE overview for 2008

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, of which UT Arlington is a member, has issued its annual compendium of developments in campus sustainability. The 356-page volume provides an overview of sustainability efforts on hundreds of campuses, including UT Arlington.

AASHE Digest 2008 (pdf)

Summer course — Carbon footprint reduction planning

 Project Planning:

Campus Carbon Footprint Reduction

CIRP 5332 (course no. 51241)

Summer 2009

Wednesdays, 6:00-9:50 p.m., June 3 – August 13

Instructor: Dr. Jeff Howard, School of Urban & Public Affairs,

This graduate course will be devoted to assisting the University of Texas at Arlington with planning reductions in its “carbon footprint” – that is, reductions in its direct and indirect emissions of greenhouse gases responsible for climate change. During a parallel course in summer 2008, students and the instructor developed a report on the university’s carbon footprint, which now serves as the starting point for the President’s Sustainability Committee’s effort to plan effective means to reduce the footprint.

In collaboration with the instructor, students will examine preliminary recommendations included in the 2008 report, assess these in light of initial responses from the sustainability committee, and use tools such as the guide produced by the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education to develop further analysis and recommendations for formal presentation to the committee and the campus community.

Because climate change is increasingly prominent in public policy nationally and internationally, the course will provide students an opportunity to develop a skill set, conceptual base, and practical experience that can be applied in municipalities and institutions across the world. It also provides concrete assistance to a large university devoted to making improvements in its environmental impacts.

The course is expected to be of particular interest to students in Urban & Public Affairs, Environmental & Earth Science, Environmental Engineering, Architecture, and Business but is open to graduate students from across the campus (and conceivably to senior undergrads). Students interested in taking the course are invited to contact the instructor.


University might get as many as 24 gas wells

A story in the Star-Telegram yesterday on the amount of royalty money the university has received from gas production  ($528,495) contained the surprising suggestion that as many as 24 wells might eventually be drilled on campus. The single well site on the south side of campus has six wells and has caused considerable frustration and concern among some residents of the adjacent neighborhood, who have complained about the noise, chemical emissions, and truck traffic associated with drilling, fracturing, and gas production at the site over the past year. Two additional wells are now being drilled there.

The story provides no time table for drilling more than these 8 wells. Nor does it indicate how many of the 24 might eventually be located at the existing site.

Star-Telegram story, Jan. 27

Committee begins carbon footprint reduction planning

At its December 16 meeting, the PSC voted to begin planning reductions in the university’s emissions of greenhouse gases.

A report released in 2008 described the “carbon footprint” for the baseline year of 2005, projected emissions in 2010 and 2020, proposed emission targets for “responsible growth,” and offered a series of emission reduction scenarios for several sectors (e.g., buildings, landscaping). Under the process initiated in December:

  • >>Several of the committee’s work groups will formally evaluate the 2008 report and develop recommendations on suitable emissions reduction targets. They will present summaries of their evaluations and recommendations at the PSC’s general meeting on February 10.
  • >>At the March 10 meeting of the steering committee, the soon-to-be-hired Sustainability Director will propose emissions reduction goals for each sector and for the university as a whole. The steering committee, in turn, will submit recommended goals to Pres. Spaniolo.
  • >>At the June 9 general meeting, the PSC will send Pres. Spaniolo a set of recommended amendments to bring the Sustainability Agenda into line with the emissions reduction goals.
  • >>At the June 9 meeting The PSC will request that the Sustainability Director report annually on the university’s progress toward meeting these goals and request that university-wide carbon footprint analyses be conducted in (or based on emissions in) 2010 and 2015.

Presentation and proposal, Dec. 16, 2009

Carbon footprint report (released in 2008)

Barnett Shale Urban Drilling: What’s It All About? Dec. 3

The Arlington Technology Association monthly presentation forDecember will be by Andy Agosto, V.P. of Business Development, Carrizo Oil & Gas. This is the company developing the university’s gas wells.

According to an ATA announcement, Agosto “will provide an overview on the role of the engineer in acquiring oil and gas mineral leases, formulating development plans, designing the wells that are drilled and operating the wells once they are drilled.”

Wednesday, Dec. 3, 7:00-8:00 a.m. (yes, a.m.). First floor of Nedderman Hall (map).

Breakfast served. Public welcome. Reservation required.

Reservations and more info:

Air quality impacts of natural gas development and electricity generation, Nov. 7

The university chapter of the Air & Waste Management Association will sponsor a presentation by Dr. Al Armendariz of SMU’s Environmental and Civil Engineering Department ( His research on the air quality impacts of urban oil and gas drilling has recently heightened concern about the environmental consequences of gas development in the Barnett Shale.

When: Friday, Nov. 7, Noon

Where: Room 202 Nedderman Hall (map)

What: Presentation on 1) oil/gas drilling emissions and 2) mercury emission controls for electric generating units

Free. Students, faculty, staff, and public welcome.

Contact: Dr. Melanie Sattler, 817/272-5410

Star-Telegram story on Armendariz’s research, Oct. 12

Shorthorn story on UT Arlington emissions, Oct. 23

Got a green idea? Want to offer constructive criticism?

If you’ve got a suggestion or constructive criticism to offer, who you gonna call?

The President’s Sustainability Committee has 10 work groups. They function rather like subcommittees, each focusing on a single aspect of the university’s sustainability program. Feel free to contact the chair of the appropriate group.

Building & Development — John Hall

Communications — Amy Schultz

Curriculum, Research, & Community Engagement — Jim Grover

Dining Services — Sharon Carey

Energy & Water — Larry Harrison

Landscaping & Habitat — David Hopman

Management Systems –

Purchasing — Megan Topham

Transportation — Jeff Johnson

Waste Reduction — Becky Valentich

Grad student criticizes urban planners on gas development

In April the Midwest Texas Section of the American Planning Association hosted a panel discussion on urban planners’ and municipal planning departments’ responses to a deluge of applications to drill for Barnett Shale natural gas within urban communities. Although expanding rapidly, this drilling remains controversial. In a recent commentary published in the organization’s newsletter, Kent Hurst, a UT Arlington Urban Planning and Public Policy doctoral student, criticizes what he sees as planners’ passive stance on gas development and their failure to provide adequate guidance on drilling regulations and ordinances. He also examines potential professional and ethical lapses related to this issue.

Hurst’s commentary