North Dakota gas producers slash flaring

By Keefe Borden08 December 2021

North Dakota’s gas producers have slashed gas flaring despite a surge in production earlier this year, according to a recent survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The rate of flaring fell to an average of 7.5% this year through the end of September, a decline which enabled the state’s producers to capture 92.5% of produced natural gas.

In early 2020, natural gas production in the region fell rapidly as a result of COVID-19, from 3.2 Bcf/d in March, to 1.9 bcf/d two months later. Since then, production has returned to pre-pandemic levels and reached 2.9 Bcf/d by October, the EIA reported.

In July 2014, the state’s industrial commission adopted formal natural gas capture targets in response to an increase in flaring from the Bakken and Three Forks formations. The rapid development of hydrocarbons, particularly oil, has outpaced the region’s infrastructure to process and transport the associated natural gas that comes with oil production. As a result, producers flared as much as 30% of the gas produced in 2013.

In response to the growth in oil production, midstream operators have built out natural gas gathering lines to transport gas from wells to processing plans and have expanded the processing plants that remove heavier hydrocarbons from the gas stream. Natural gas processing capacity in the state increased from 1 Bcf/d in 2013 to 3.4 Bcf/d in 2020, the EIA reported.

By the end of 2021, the state expects its gas processing capacity to exceed 4.0 Bcf/d.

Expanding pipeline capacity to move natural gas liquids out of the state has further improved the state’s midstream infrastructure. The separation of those liquids is essential to enable the rest of the gas stream to move out of the state through interstate gas transmission lines. The EIA said the region’s NGL transportation capacity expanded from 60,000 b/d in 2013 to more than 580,000 b/d in September, the EIA reported.

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