Jim Wilson/The New York Times
Published: September 26, 2011
NEW TOWN, N.D. — Across western North Dakota, hundreds of fires rise above fields of wheat and sunflowers and bales of hay. At night, they illuminate the prairie skies like giant fireflies.
They are not wildfires caused by lightning strikes or other acts of nature, but the deliberate burning of natural gas by oil companies rushing to extract oil from the Bakken shale field and take advantage of the high price of crude. The gas bubbles up alongside the far more valuable oil, and with less economic incentive to capture it, the drillers treat the gas as waste and simply burn it.
Every day, more than 100 million cubic feet of natural gas is flared this way — enough energy to heat half a million homes for a day.
coal-fired power plant would emit, alarming some environmentalists.
All told, 30 percent of the natural gas produced in North Dakota is burned as waste. No other major domestic oil field currently flares close to that much, though the practice is still common in countries like Russia, Nigeria and Iran.
With few government regulations that limit the flaring, more burning is also taking place in the Eagle Ford shale field in Texas, and some environmentalists and industry executives say that it could happen in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Ohio, too, as drilling expands in new fields there unlocked by techniques like hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling.
“North Dakota is not as bad as Kazakhstan, but this is not what you would expect a civilized, efficient society to do: to flare off a perfectly good product just because it’s expensive to bring to market,” said Michael E. Webber, associate director of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Texas at Austin.
The burning of 30% of all natural gas produced is lunacy at best! We ask the Oil & Gas Industry to step down from their insolence! You are the plague of the Earth. Why must an industry use a death/benefit protocol to assert it's financial prowess?
Do you realize how much toxic air people are breathing because of inept business and lack of regulation? Sure you do, but you could care less if mother's have pregnancy issues, children develop neurological disorders, the list goes on and on, but as long as silver is lining your pockets, the 'death/benefit business model is working just fine.