North Dakota's Oil Boom

The Bakken formation, which lies under North Dakota and Montana, could contain almost 11 billion barrels of oil. Towns like Williston, ND are exploding in population and have the lowest unemployment in the country.

"New drilling technology is also fueling boom towns in Texas, Louisiana, and Colorado," NPR staff report. Techniques like fracking, highly controversial in some states, is fueling an employment boom in others and turning America's oil importing problem around.

Academics interviewed by NPR say that "...new oil in the US, Canada and South America could change the center of gravity of the entire global energy supply." The same professor also concludes that the greater availability of U.S. oil could drive down investment in renewables.

Full Story: New Boom Reshapes Oil World, Rocks North Dakota
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Irvin Dawid's picture
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NYT article on wasting natural gas in the Bakken

In North Dakota, Flames of Wasted Natural Gas Light the Prairie, Sept. 27.

After reading this and other articles on the tapping of 'unconventional oil' I conclude there is no shortage of oil in the world, but there is a far more serious lack of environmental regulations to ensure the safe extraction of these valuable fossil fuels - and that's what's really wrong in the Bakken....

An ironic twist of applying hydraulic fracturing, or fracking to oil drilling in the Bakken shale area of North Dakota is that natural gas is emitted as an unwanted by-product. "The gas bubbles up alongside the far more valuable oil, and with less economic incentive to capture it, the drillers treat the gas as waste and simply burn it."

"All told, 30 percent of the natural gas produced in North Dakota is burned as waste. No other major domestic oil field currently flares close to that much, though the practice is still common in countries like Russia, Nigeria and Iran."

"Drilling leases are typically short, and building the infrastructure to handle the gas for sale would substantially raise costs, so drillers have found it to be more profitable to just grab the oil and burn the gas."

"Regulations on flaring are loose in North Dakota, as they are in most states, and there are no current federal regulations on flaring at oil and gas wells."

Burning the plentiful gas that results from fracking and horizontal drilling is far preferable than releasing it - as methane, the main component, is twenty-times more potent a greenhouse gas than the far more abundant carbon dioxide which results from its combustion.

View (5) slide show that accompanies article.
Irvin Dawid, Palo Alto, CA

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