Special Camera Puts Bakken Gas Emissions in Clearer Focus
Gas emissions from the Bakken are having a global impact on the atmosphere, a recent study found, but health regulators say new technology they’re using to inspect oilfield sites should lead to a dramatic improvement.
The North Dakota Department of Health recently began using a USD 100,000 camera that uses infrared technology to detect methane, ethane, and other emissions that leak from well sites.
“The huge advantage is that you now see any emissions that are coming out, which were previously invisible to your eye,” said Jim Semerad, with the health department’s Air Quality Division.
Natural gas produced in the Bakken as a byproduct of oil production is known as a “wet” gas, meaning it is rich in natural gas liquids such as propane, butane and ethane.
“They can be beneficial if they’re captured and separated out, but they can also go directly into the atmosphere if the controls aren’t there or if the controls aren’t working properly,” said David Glatt, chief of the Environmental Health Section.
On an individual basis, a Bakken oil and gas well is not a significant contributor to emissions, Semerad said.
But multiply that by 13,000 wells in North Dakota, and the impact can be substantial.
“The sheer numbers have grown such that we have to take a harder look at them,” Semerad said.