(PRWEB) February 10, 2014
The oil industry has had a transformative effect on the economic landscape of North Dakota, creating jobs and boosting tax revenues for both the cities where drilling occurs and the state as a whole. One of the more recent shifts is the willingness of companies to work on recovering more of the natural gas that is a byproduct of hydraulic fracturing. Last week, officials formalized this dedication to flare gas recovery, with a pledge to capture nearly all of the gas being produced in the Bakken shale field by decade's end.
In the past, flare gas waste has been a symptom of a lack of infrastructure. There simply aren't enough lines that connect wells to processing plants, to the point where nearly 30 percent of the gas being pumped from those wells has to be burned off. For companies looking to provide the nation's energy, this process is obviously not ideal: flaring can be time consuming and expensive, and any resources disposed of in this way are unavailable for sale.
According to a task force, that could change soon.
The forced reported to the North Dakota Industrial Commission, which oversees such activity in the state, that the amount of gas recovered could improve from 70 to 85 percent in two years, and then on to 90 percent in another four. For the Bakken shale, such a jump would be an amazing feat, in no small part due to the rapid increase of activity in the area. Because so many new wells are being drilled, that 15 percent increase in recovery would yield a 40 percent bump in the actual amount of natural gas produced.
These efforts can be supported in two distinct but compatible ways. One, companies can invest in flare gas recovery technologies, such as those being engineered by R3 Sciences. Secondly, the construction of more gas-gathering pipelines would make it easier to transport gas to processing plants, which in turn would make it easier to ship the valuable resource. This could be supported by legislation, which could increase regulations requiring producers to consider their options for recovering natural gas more carefully before receiving their drilling permit.
"It looks like a pretty good solution," said State Senator Connie Triplett, a Democrat who has been urging stricter controls on flaring. "They actually invited regulation from the Industrial Commission, which has to be a first for the oil industry in North Dakota."
Forward thinking investment in innovative technology is what has made the Bakken shale so productive and valuable today. Just six years ago, it was barely relevant. Now, it's outputting about a million barrels a day, almost entirely due to the ability of companies to leverage new fracturing chemicals to access previously closed off formations.
With the same sort of expertise and dedication focused on the recovery of natural gas, there's cause for optimism that the state will reach its goals for reducing flare gas waste. If it does, the resultant boost to energy production will be a boon to both business interests in the area and the country as a whole.