According to the Energy Information Administration “about one-third of the natural gas North Dakota has produced in recent years has been flared rather than sold to customers or consumed on-site.”
Meaning, that 33 percent of all of the natural gas in North Dakota is being burnt rather than collected. I’m guessing that 33 percent is not being calculated into the “efficiency” of burning natural gas, but you can bet it is included in the market price.
Why do they burn the gas?
First, natural gas is made mostly of methane which is a much worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Burning it prevents free methane in the atmosphere. North Dakota law also prohibits venting natural gas into the atmosphere without first burning it.
Why don’t they collect it?
The easy answer is that there is not the infrastructure to do so. Over the last 4 years the output of North Dakota’s oil reservoirs has increased 391 percent. The increase output requires more infrastructure to collect, process, and move all of the associated gas rather than flaring them.
What’s going to happen?
It’s going to take time for us to move to a 100 percent renewable energy economy. In the meantime, North Dakota’s Industrial Commission has set goals to decrease the volume of flared gas over the next few years. By 2016, the Commission aims to reduce flaring to 15% or less of total volume.
What infrastructure is needed?
Oil and gas producers need bigger, better, and more pipelines, and more importantly they need more land (and permission from public and private landowners) to build those pipelines.