O&G Industry Responds to Bakken Gas Flaring Scrutiny

Other Options Offered by Industry to Reduce Flaring

To reduce the amount of gas that is flared in North Dakota, energy companies, including Alliance Pipeline, Hess Corp. and others, are building pipelines and processing facilities to connect the wells. However, because of its size – the Bakken/Three Forks is the largest oil field in the world, according to the North Dakota Oil Can – it will take considerable time and money to build an infrastructure for natural gas in the formation.

One option would be to convert generators at existing rig sites to operate on natural gas, and use the natural gas that is currently being flared as a source of on-site power generation instead, said Julie Fedorchak, the public service commissioner for North Dakota, in a statement.

The North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC), which is the state’s, currently allows flaring at a well for one year, and extensions to the permits are also given if the producer shows that the well cannot feasibly be hooked up to the necessary infrastructure, the Energy Policy Research Foundation said in a statement. While the NDIC says it routinely checks for indications that the permit conditions have changed, there is no requirement that they must follow up on wells that have been granted an extension.

Real-World Numbers on Flaring

There are obvious environmental and economic reasons for controlling natural gas flaring. The CO2 that is released into the environment as a result of flaring takes up to 100 years to dissipate, scientists say. The CO2 traps heat, which is said to contribute to climate change. However, the methane that is released into the atmosphere by unburned natural gas is even worse for the environment. While dissipating much more quickly than CO2 – methane dissipates within about 20 years, according to the Christian Science Monitor – it is estimated by scientists to be 72 to 84 times more harmful to the environment than CO2 is.

To put the natural gas losses into a real-world context, the energy needs of about 1.3 million homes could be met for one year on the amount of natural gas that is flared in North Dakota every year, according to the Renewable Fuels Association. On a single day in May 2013, there was $3.6 million – or $1.3 billion per year on an annualized basis – in lost revenue from natural gas flaring in North Dakota alone.


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