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US shale gas flaring visible from space

Oilfield Technology,

According to a recent report in the Financial Times, the boom in the US shale industry has had something of an unexpected side-effect. As the number of shale wells drilled has increased massively over recent years, so has the amount of unwanted gas that has been flared-off. The process has become so commonplace that the light emitted from gas flares in the Bakken looks as bright from space as the city of Chicago.

The trend currently shows no sign of stopping, with last year showing a 50% increase in the amount of gas flared in the Bakken alone. In 2010, Texas issued 306 permits for gas flaring, but this figure had risen to 1963 by 2012. Indeed, across the whole of the US, the amount of gas flared has tripled over the last five years.

This rise in flaring has raised a number of concerns, not only is there likely to be a significant environmental impact from the process, but flaring has been described as nothing more than a waste of a valuable resource. For operators however, current low gas prices in the US make building pipelines or storage facilities for the vast volumes being produced economically unfeasible.

Companies have however begun to take this criticism on board and many are starting to take steps towards reducing their levels of flaring. For example, Contintental Resources, the largest oil producer in the Bakken, has outlined plans for further reductions over the coming year. State governments are also considering ways to bring flaring under control; one example being tax breaks used as encouragement for reduced levels of flaring.



Edited from various sources by David Bizley

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