Mapping Gas Flaring in the Eagle Ford Shale Using Satellite Observations: Flaring Variability and Implications
Utilizing remote sensing data, specifically from the Visible Infrared Imagery Radiometric Suite (VIIRS), gas flaring can be mapped accurately within the Eagle Ford Shale (EFS) from 2012 to 2016. Utilizing this data and data provided by the Railroad Commission of Texas, the locations and numbers of gas flare are mapped and studied. Given the negative impacts that gas flaring has on the environment, the areas with high flare concentration are important to record. Temperature of flares mapped from the VIIRS is used as a proxy for understanding the specific toxic chemicals being released into the atmosphere, as temperature is a driver of various combustion reaction possibilities for natural gas. ArcGIS is mostly used for mapping and illustration, while MATLAB, Excel, and Python for calculations. It is found that the EFS had 1,704 gas flares in 2012-2015 and (reduced to) 610 gas flares in 2016, with an average temperature ranging from 1750-1900 K. This indicates that most flares were burning off CO, CO₂, NO, NO₂, and SO₂, having serious environmental and health implications. The temperatures of these flares fluctuate slightly throughout the five years, however on average they stay similar. Area change of the gas flares fluctuates throughout the years, with the largest positive change from 2015 to 2016, indicating slightly faster burning off because it was no longer economical to produce. It is found that counties McMullen and Karnes, having a high rate of production, high number of gas flare, high flare temperatures, are impacted the most by gas flaring.