Friday, July 20, 2012

Natural Gas Flaring

I've always enjoyed fireworks, explosions, and, in general, things that are on fire. No, it's not an inner arsonist in me, but the little boy portion of my psyche that just thinks fire is awesome. When a natural gas well in the Marcellus Shale plays went up near my parents home a few years ago, I was very intrigued when they began flaring off some of the excess gases. From my window, I could see a flame shooting high into the sky and, with Pennsylvania having lots of cloud cover, it would light up the night sky.

A natural gas flare in Bradford County, PA
(Photo: Les Stone/Corbis, 2012)

The Christian Science Monitor recently published an article on the waste of natural gas from flaring. Oil companies are flaring natural gas coming off of their drill sites because the price is relatively low ($3.04 per thousand cubic feet as of 7/20/12, according to the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Assocation). Companies just do not have the finances or the time to connect their facilities to the natural gas pipelines and begin collecting this gas, so they burn it off. According to the article, 5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas was flared last year worldwide (accounting for 25% of U.S. natural gas consumption annually). In the U.S. alone, it soard to 251 billion cubic feet in 2022 (a 223% increase from 2007).  This article mainly focuses on the Bakken formation in North Dakota which, at a rate of 100 mcf/day flared annually, represents $110 million dollars in lost revenue. Thats a crazy amount and could be invested in the research and development into safer natural gas extraction technologies or renewable/sustainable forms of energy.

We know I am a proponent for the extraction of natural gas, but as a means of weaning the U.S. off of foreign oil and to contribute tax revenue to renewable energy R&D. This represents a great potential for not only curbing emissions into the atmosphere (as natural gas is mainly comprised of methane, which is more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide), but also generating revenue and increasing our domestic supply of natural gas.

Thoughts or comments? Shoot me an email!

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