Natural Gas Flaring In Bakken Reduced Following New Regulations

A month after implementing new rules regarding the flaring of natural gas, the state of North Dakota was near compliance with the new limits as oil and gas production companies in the Bakken work to reduce flaring, according to the United States Department of Energy (DOE).

In August, 28 percent of North Dakota’s natural gas was flared, the state reported. That was near North Dakota’s flare-rate goal of 26 percent in 4Q 2014, despite an increase in oil production in the Bakken in August, according to the website Bakken.com.

Following criticism from royalty holders regarding extensive flaring that made North Dakota shine as brightly in satellite photos as large metropolitan areas, the North Dakota Industrial Commission – the state’s regulatory agency for oil and gas – approved new flaring goals July 1. The commission’s goal for 4Q 2014 is 26 percent; this drops to 23 percent in 1Q 2015 and 15 percent in 1Q 2016.

Companies not in compliance with the new flaring limits would face restrictions on daily oil production. Oil production is restricted to 200 barrels of oil per day (bopd) if gas capture is between 60 and 76 percent Oct. 1 or later, according to the Department of Mineral Resources. If gas capture is less than 60 percent on a well after Oct. 1, oil production on the well is limited to a maximum of 100 bopd.

Because flaring contributes to air pollution, drilling companies may not flare if the North Dakota Department of Health determines that it violates air pollution control rules, The Bakken magazine said.

Flaring in the Bakken and Three Forks formations was common because of the lack of infrastructure to transport and store the natural gas that is found during drilling operations. That means that drillers have had to come up with gas capture plans that included where the natural gas was going to be processed in order to comply with the new regulations, according to The Bakken. However, natural gas processing plants are under construction in North Dakota and should enable production companies to more easily comply with the regulations.

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