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270 Fracking Wells Account For 60 Percent Of All Flaring In North Dakota

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NATURAL GAS NORTH DAKOTA
A gas flare is seen at an oil well site on July 26, 2013 outside Williston, North Dakota. | Andrew Burton via Getty Images

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Just 274 wells accounted for around 60 percent of all flaring of natural gas in North Dakota in December, a researcher said Tuesday at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Bismarck.

Chad Wocken, senior research manager at the Energy and Environmental Research Center, a contract research firm housed at the University of North Dakota, discussed flaring and how to better utilize natural gas at the conference.

In March, the latest month for which figures are available, North Dakota's oil wells flared 33 percent of natural gas they produced. In December, North Dakota's flaring rate matched an all-time high at 36 percent.

Oil companies sometimes flare, or burn off, natural gas where it's found, rather than gathering it and processing it for the market. Nationwide, around 1 percent of natural gas is flared according to the U.S. Energy Department.

While there is no "silver bullet," Wocken said North Dakota's flaring rate could move into the single digits eventually, but it will require the development of pipeline and gas capturing infrastructure along with the implementation of gas capturing technologies at more remote sites.

But several things complicate this mission.

Wocken said that while between 200 and 300 wells are responsible for the bulk of the state's flaring every month, it's not always the same wells producing the large amounts of gas. The amount of gas produced by a well can shift dramatically over the course of a well's life.

Gas capturing technology "needs to meet the transient nature of the resource — and the source of these flares is moving with time."

To make an impact on overall flaring, Wocken said gas capturing technology needs to be mobile so it can get to the wells that are producing the most gas.

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