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UPDATE 1-ConocoPhillips pulls request for extension of flaring permits at 41 Texas sites

(Recasts first paragraph)

Sept 4 (Reuters) - U.S. oil and gas producer ConocoPhillips withdrew a request to extend flaring permits at 41 of its sites in West Texas, saying it no longer needed them as operational improvements had reduced the need for flaring events.

Flaring, the practice of deliberately burning unwanted gas, has become a concern for environmentalists and investors on fears that it exacerbates climate change by releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

ConocoPhillips continues to take steps to reduce flaring in Permian Basin’s Goldsmith area by improving operational procedures, including shut-ins, John Roper, director of the company’s media relations and crisis communications, told Reuters on Friday.

“These efforts have reduced the need for flaring events and eliminated the need to pursue the RRC (Railroad Commission of Texas) applications,” Roper added.

The RRC confirmed that ConocoPhillips had withdrawn its request in a letter dated Sept. 2.

In October, the company had applied for a two-year permit to cover unplanned flaring at its Goldsmith facilities.

A report by the Environmental Integrity Project, a non-profit organization, citing state records, said the 41 Conoco sites burned 1.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas in 2018-2019, releasing more than 1,262 tons of sulfur dioxide.

Although companies have to apply for permits to burn unwanted gas, Texas currently allows producers to do so for six months and routinely issues waivers after the six months expires.

The head of the RRC said in June that Texas as early as this fall could tighten some flaring rules.

Recommendations from an industry panel included halving the number of days producers can routinely burn unwanted gas without going to the RRC for a hearing to 90 from 180. (Reporting by Shruti Sonal in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Vinay Dwivedi)

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