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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...
Regulatory complexity governs rail, truck oil field transportation

Regulatory complexity governs rail, truck oil field transportation

01/06/2014 Coupling the complex US regulatory patchwork covering truck and rail transportation with the recent boom of nonpipeline transport of oil products, oil companies must understand and comply with far-reaching and potentially intermingled regulations. More than ever before, given both the increased use of truck and rail to transport these products and increasing federal and state regulations concerning truck and rail traffic, oil companies, railroads, and trucking companies must vigilantly remain abreast of all regulatory developments. Although the oil and gas waste exemption from the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) denies the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority to regulate the transportation of hydraulic fracturing fluid, wastewater, and crude oil, federal entities have the authority to regulate the transportation of oil products. For instance, the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration have regulatory authority over the transportation of hydraulic fracturing fluid, wastewater, and oil products by truck and rail, respectively. And though the 1995 Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (ICCTA) preempts state regulation of railroad transportation, various states, including Arkansas, Colorado, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Texas, impose basic permitting, operating, and recordkeeping requirements on truckers transporting these products. With the volume of oil produced in the US rising faster than can be moved by existing pipelines and with remote areas such as North Dakota leading production growth, oil and gas companies increasingly are using railroads and semi-trucks both to transport crude oil and drilling waste by-products away from the well and bring chemicals, fluids, and other materials needed to drill and develop the resource towards it. Rail transport of oil products has increased...