Methane emissions from gas flares on the oil fields of the Bakken and other shales is a major concern for anyone who believes that climate change is a threat to the planet. More than 1,500 gas flares light up the prairie of western North Dakota every day. These flares are so prominent, vast, and bright that the fields of the Bakken outshine Minneapolis when viewed from space.
But instead of landowners suing oil companies for polluting the air and stopping production all together, an innovative and revolutionary proposal is being presented to the Bakken shale.
In Watford City, ND a new technology is being experimented with, a sort of portable CNG that compresses the methane emissions from gas flares into useable natural gas ready for transplant. These “CNGs in a box” were developed by G.E and Statoil to be used not only at the Bakken, but as far away as Asia. The methane gathered would be used for things around the oil site. Powering trucks and railways, among other things is the main purpose of the portable CNGs.
If their plan is successful it will cut a fifth of the gas that is currently being burned into the North Dakota atmosphere every day.
The box itself costs 1.1 million dollars, and the processor needed to transform the methane is around $500,000. The company is trying to have at least eight units in use by the end of 2014.
The industry will theoretically be lowering toxic emissions by 2015, but the flaring will probably not be completely under control until late 2020.
With the rapid growth of rigs going up throughout the vast and plentiful Bakken region, this new technology is not only exciting but also essential to keeping toxic emissions to a minimum.