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Flaring Up: North Dakota Natural Gas Flaring More Than Doubles in Two Years

The tremendous growth of unconventional oil production in North Dakota has also led to a rapid rise in the production of associated natural gas. However, state authorities report that a large percentage of this gas does not ultimately go to market. Nearly 30 percent of North Dakota gas is currently being burned off, or flared, each month as a byproduct of oil production.

In its World Energy Outlook 2012, the International Energy Agency projected that the United States would become the world’s largest oil producer by 2020, a position the U.S. last held in the 1970s. This dramatic resurgence is being driven by technological advances like directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing, which are unlocking shale gas and tight oil resources that were previously uneconomic to recover.

This recent boom has been perhaps most evident in North Dakota, where oil production from the state’s Bakken formation increased 40 fold between 2007 and mid-2013, from 18,500 to 760,000 barrels per day (bpd). In May 2012, North Dakota surpassed Alaska to become the second-largest oil producing state in the U.S. after Texas.

The tremendous growth of unconventional oil production in North Dakota has also led to a rapid rise in the production of associated natural gas. However, state authorities report that a large percentage of this gas does not ultimately go to market. Nearly 30 percent of North Dakota gas is currently being burned off, or flared, each month as a byproduct of oil production.

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