Thursday, September 29, 2011

Natural gas flaring

After a bit of a giggle yesterday, get ready to utter a collective groan today. I just learned about natural gas flaring last night in the New York Times (related blog post here). This is the common practice of burning off the natural gas that comes to the surface when oil is drilled instead of capturing it. With the high price of crude oil, the oil companies find little ecomic incentive to deal with the less valuable natural gas and simply burn it as waste. This has been going on around the world, notably in Africa, but there is a particularly egregious example right here in North Dakota, where there is a rush to extract oil from the Bakken shale, the biggest oil field discovered in the U.S. in 40 years. Consider these numbers:
  • 100 million cubic feet of natural gas is flared every day in North Dakota, enough energy to heat 500,000 homes for that amount of time
  • 2 million tons of carbon dioxide is spewed into the atmosphere every year by North Dakota gas flares, the equivalent of what 384,000 cars or a medium-size coal-fired power plant would emit
  • 30% of the natural gas produced in North Dakota is burned as waste
  • 150 billion cubic meters of natural gas are being flared and vented every year globally, an amount equal to about 25% of the annual gas consumption in the United States (or 30% of the consumption in the European Union)
  • 400 million tons per year of CO2 are added to the atmosphere worldwide
It’s a waste to be wasting all of this energy,” says James T. Brown, president and chief operating officer of Whiting Petroleum. That company at least has begun to do something about it. I find this unconscionable.

1 comment:

  1. In other words, my driving my little gas-saver and recycling doesn't put a dent in the problem when stuff like this goes on.


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