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Capturing Methane to Fuel Drilling Operations

Capturing Methane to Fuel Drilling Operations

By Edward Dodge on January 27, 2015 at 12:00 PM Besides using methane to fuel drilling operations to save money methane emissions from oil and gas production have become a serious issue for regulators concerned about greenhouse gasses. But technology innovators are finding ways to capture the wasted natural gas and profitably use it to fuel their operations. In July 2014 regulators in North Dakota adopted tough new rules to reduce the amount of natural gas being flared in the state. North Dakota has issued a goal of capturing 77% of the gas produced by January 1, 2015 and rising in stages to 95% captured by 2020. Flares from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota are visible from space. The EPA has also proposed new national rules, though they are not currently in effect. EPA’s goal is reduce methane emissions 40-45% by 2025 from 2012 levels, but have a particular focus on reducing flaring through the use of “green completion” technologies in oil and gas drilling. Most green completions are fairly simple, the gas is captured and cleaned up, condensate liquids are separated for transport and sale, while the dry natural gas is sent into pipelines. Some E&P (exploration and production) companies have been practicing green completions for a decade and have found the practice to be highly cost effective, as the value of the gas far outweighs the cost of the equipment needed for processing. The challenges occur where there is not sufficient pipeline infrastructure available. This has been the problem in the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota where hundreds of drill rigs are spread across...
Regulations Could Douse North Dakota Gas Flares

Regulations Could Douse North Dakota Gas Flares

Vehicles burning gasoline refined from crude oil is already one of the world’s biggest sources of carbon dioxide emissions, and one of the United States’ largest sources of crude oil is the Bakken shale in North Dakota. NASA satellite images showing bright lights in the Bakken fields illustrate a side effect of crude oil production there that is also problematic for the climate. All the light coming from those fields are thousands of flames burning off, or flaring, natural gas. A NASA nighttime satellite image of North Dakota. The cluster of lights in the northwest quadrant of the state is made up of flames from flaring oil wells in the Bakken shale region of the state. Credit: NASA The natural gas, mostly methane produced with the crude oil extracted from the Bakken, has to be flared because there are few pipelines or infrastructure there that can bring that natural gas to market. Energy companies flare as much as a third of the excess gas they produce. Flaring in North Dakota produced 4.5 million metric tons of CO2 in 2012 alone, roughly the equivalent of adding 1 million new cars to U.S. highways, according to the non-profit sustainability group Ceres. New regulations are aiming to change that, possibly reducing the flaring to 10 percent of all natural gas produced by 2020, according to a U.S. Energy Information Administration report released Monday. In 2013, more than 35 percent of the excess natural gas produced with Bakken crude oil was flared into the atmosphere. North Dakota’s new emissions reduction targets have already reduced flared natural gas to 26 percent, and the goal is to...
Oil Companies Are Sued for Waste of Natural Gas

Oil Companies Are Sued for Waste of Natural Gas

Flared gas has nearly tripled in the last two years in North Dakota, producing emissions equivalent to more than two medium-size coal-fired power plants. By CLIFFORD KRAUSS Published: October 17, 2013 HOUSTON — In the sharpest challenge yet to the surge in flaring of natural gas in the Bakken shale oil field, North Dakota mineral owners this week filed 10 class-action lawsuits seeking millions of dollars in lost royalties from some of the nation’s largest oil companies. Roughly 1,500 fires burn above western North Dakota because of the deliberate burning of natural gas by companies rushing to drill for oil without having sufficient pipelines to transport their production. With cheap gas bubbling to the top with expensive oil, the companies do not have an economic incentive to build the necessary gas pipelines, so they flare the excess gas instead. Flaring is environmentally less harmful than releasing raw natural gas into the atmosphere, but the flared gas still spews climate-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The quantities of gas burned are so large that the fires rising above wheat and sunflower fields look like a small city in NASA photographs taken from satellites. Flared gas has nearly tripled in the last two years in North Dakota, with almost 30 percent of the output in the state burned at wells, producing emissions equivalent to more than two medium-size coal-fired power plants. The value of flared gas in the state is roughly $100 million a month, leading property owners who lease their lands to the oil companies to believe they are losing money even though they are earning increasing royalties from the...