Figures reveal operators in the Bakken Formation – a region holding vast reserves of oil in North Dakota – have been unable to restrict gas flaring to meet state regulations for the past three months.
The Bakken Formation’s oil production has increased rapidly in recent years. Advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling opened the area for companies to begin producing oil. In 2008 the formation produced 100,000 barrels per day (BPD) – today it produces 1.23 million BPD and is a major source of oil in North Dakota.
The flaring challenge
The Bakken Formation has a long history of flaring natural gas. Natural gas is released during the production of crude oil. Companies need to invest in infrastructure to capture and collect it or flare excess gas as waste. Flaring is often done for safety reasons – particularly when the priority is producing high-value oil – but routine flaring is a growing concern.
Implemented in 2014, reduction targets granted the state authority to restrict the oil production of operators responsible for excessive flaring. At the beginning of 2018, flaring had decreased from 310 to 256 million cubic feet per day – appearing to show the new policies were taking effect.
However, new figures reveal producers in the region have flared 15.5 per cent of natural gas in April, 17 per cent in May and 16.8 per cent in June. This is reportedly due to new wells coming online are in areas where there are not adequate gathering lines and processing facilities, and reflects the continued investment in the region.
The North Dakota Petroleum Council (NDPC) – responsible for setting flaring targets throughout the state – is implementing a much stricter limit on flaring in the Bakken Formation. Effective control of flaring can be achieved through a variety of measures, including providing appropriate regional infrastructure for capture and distribution, incentives for local use of the gas for example in power generation, and financial disincentives for flaring over limits.
From 1st November 2018 just 12 per cent of associated gas can be flared before fines will take effect. New processing plants and expansions are also underway to help manage natural gas, with five gas processing plants planned for the end of 2019. The additional capacity to handle excess gas will help oil producers capture a target of 91 per cent of natural gas by 2020.
To help the region meet flaring targets, oil and gas companies will need to rely on accurate monitoring and measurement of natural gas.
One of the most accurate ways to measure flare gas is with ultrasonic technology. Fluenta’s FGM 160 Flare Gas Meter uses ultrasonic technology to effectively provide measurement data, allowing oil and gas companies to better identify the processes that result in the most gas flaring. Using flare gas meters will help the Bakken Formation assess and meet its flaring targets, as well as accurately report flaring volumes in the coming years.
For more information on Fluenta’s FGM 160 Flare Gas Meter, click here.