Earthworks Releases Report on Flaring

Earthworks Releases Report on Flaring

(Radio interview of Earthworks Strategic Communications Director, Allan Septoff is at the bottom of the page. Prairie Public Radio interviewed Allan)


Earthworks released a new report showing that eliminating natural gas waste in two shale plays would have the same effect as taking 1.5 million cars off the road. The report is accompanied by an interactive map developed by SkyTruth showing flaring activity in the U.S. and around the world based on nightly, infrared satellite data.

Up in Flames: U.S. Shale Oil Boom Comes at Expense of Wasted Natural Gas, Increased Carbon Dioxide, is an investigation of the amount of flaring in North Dakota’s Bakken and Texas’s Eagle Ford shale plays, and the policies that manage it. Flaring is the burning as waste of the natural gas produced as a byproduct of oil drilling.

Among Up In Flames’  findings:

  • 130 billion cubic feet of natural gas burned in the Bakken and Eagle Ford Shale has produced the equivalent of 1.5 million cars’ emissions of carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas.

  • $854 million in natural gas – has been burned as waste in the Bakken shale play since 2010.

  • $854 million would pay for 5kW photovoltaic solar panel installations for almost every household in Fargo, North Dakota’s largest city.

  • North Dakota neither tracks how much companies pay in taxes on flared gas, nor independently tracks the volume of flared gas

  • Texas does not require producers to pay taxes on flared gas.

“Burning natural gas as waste is costing taxpayers and the climate,” said Up in Flames author Dusty Horwitt. He continued, “States should enact tough new standards to prevent flaring, including requiring drillers to pay taxpayers the full value of any gas they flare.”

SkyTruth’s new Global Flaring Map compiles nightly infrared data from a NOAA satellite and filters it to display gas flares associated with oil and gas production. In addition to tracking flaring in the Eagle Ford and Bakken shale, the interactive map is updated nightly to show flaring in the rest of the United States and around the world.

“This new tool makes the scale and frequency of flaring more comprehensible and less abstract,” said Paul Woods, Chief Technology Officer at SkyTruth. “Hopefully, enabling everyone to see where, when, and how often operators are flaring will create public pressure on government and industry to reduce the waste of this hard-won natural resource,” Woods continued.

“This report shows that North Dakota regulators simply aren’t doing their job, said Dakota Resource Council executive director Don Morrison. He continued, “Instead they’re putting private profits ahead of the public interest. This isn’t our first oil boom, we know how to do it better.”

“The Railroad Commission is statutorily required ‘to prevent waste of Texas’s natural resources’,” said Earthworks Texas organizer Sharon Wilson. She continued, “I don’t see how the Railroad Commission isn’t breaking the law by allowing drillers to waste natural gas by flaring it off rather than capturing it.”

“Flaring is just one of many problems associated with unconventional oil and gas development,” said Earthworks energy program director Bruce Baizel. He continued, “Unfortunately, North Dakota and Texas’s inadequate oversight of flaring is representative of state oversight of fracking across the country. The ultimate solution to these problems is to transition away from fossil fuels entirely and towards renewables like wind and solar.”

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