Gas Flaring Deepens Shadow over Bakken Crude Output
BY Andy Schmidt
While Bakken has become an incredible source of crude oil since the 2000s, the output of this resource may be lessening due to extensive gas flaring that is happening during production. The flaring of natural gas represents the process of controlled combustion; something that happens routinely while developing natural gas and oil, as a part of transportations, processing, gathering, production, and drilling operations.
Compared to flaring, venting is the process of releasing small amounts of natural gas out into the Earth’s atmosphere. Flaring is the more common practice, although more wasteful. Without getting into the obvious ecological implications, unlimited flaring is also bad for economics.
The main issue with the existing crude production in Bakken is that it includes large amounts of natural gas as a byproduct. In facilities where provisions for utilizing natural gas byproducts productively have been made, this is not a big issue. However, coming up with a technological fix at later project stages is often untenable and unrealistic.
In situations where an oil project has not made preparations and plans for the utilization of natural gas, there are always a couple of options left. One, the oil operator must find a way to make use of the gas onsite as a part of their operations, or reinject the gas back into the ground. Otherwise, it’s vented or flared.
When it comes to Bakken, gas is released mostly due to these reasons, or for safety concerns—if operating conditions are such that large buildups of gas occur, this is not a secure environment.
Unfortunately, the common use of this practice in the area can hurt the market conditions for crude oil outputs as well; directly harming asphalt production via the market availability of petroleum.
Seeing as flaring hurts both the environment and the economy (due to wasted gas), both state and federal regulations are starting to ramp down on the allowed level of flaring and venting. They’re mainly doing this by limiting the allowed levels of crude output based on the level of flaring and gas wastage.
Andy Schmidt is an aspiring writer and has an interest in business with a particular emphasis on the global oil and gas industry.