Pioneer Natural Resources CEO calls for private oil firm's flaring to be 'reined in'

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Dust blows around a crude oil pump jack and flare burning excess gas at a drill pad in the Permian Basin in Loving County, Texas, U.S. November 25, 2019. Picture taken November 25, 2019. REUTERS/Angus Mordant/File Photo

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DENVER, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Scott Sheffield, chief executive officer of U.S. public shale firm Pioneer Natural Resources Co (PXD.N) , on Thursday said private oil and gas companies needed to be "reined in" for excessive methane flaring.

Sheffield said in an earnings call that methane flaring in the Permian Basin, the largest U.S. shale field, has fallen to less than 200 million cubic feet per day from a peak of 750 million cubic feet per day over the last two years.

Pioneer and many others, primarily other publics have driven flaring under 1% and aim eventually to lower it to 0.2%, while primarily private operators continue to vent and flare much greater than 1%, he said.

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"Somehow we need to rein in the privates through regulation, whether it's the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), state, investors, bond investors," he said.

His comments come as U.S. oil drillers have become increasingly focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions amid pressure from investors, environmentalists and other stakeholders.

Pioneer said it will continue to keep its oil production flat to at a 5% growth rate long-term, while private rivals are growing at between 15% and 25% - a level he said was not sustainable.

Sheffield remained bullish on oil prices , which have underpinned the company's decision to remove oil hedges. He said oil prices could jump to $150 a barrel.

In 2021, the company made some $2.6 billion in cash payments to settle derivative contracts.

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Reporting by Liz Hampton in Denver and Shariq Khan in Bengaluru Editing by Marguerita Choy

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