The jobless rate in the 12 North Dakota counties over the Bakken Formation is less than 2% and employers are having a very difficult time attracting talented workers – even though the population of these counties is growing rapidly.
Northwestern North Dakota has one of the lowest population densities in the United States; however, this night lights image from NASA shows the area has hundreds of points of illumination. Many of these lights are Bakken Formation oil wells where natural gas that does not have a pipeline to market is being flared. Flaring is common practice in the oil and gas industry although many object to the practice.
“North Dakota’s oil production averaged 660 thousand barrels per day (bbl/d) in June 2012, up 3% from the previous month and 71% over June 2011 volumes. Driving production gains is output from the Bakken Formation in the Williston Basin, which averaged 594 thousand bbl/d in June 2012, an increase of 85% over the June 2011 average. The Bakken now accounts for 90% of North Dakota’s total oil production.” Quoted from the Energy Information Administration.
“After decades of hydraulic fracturing-related activity there is little evidence if any that hydraulic fracturing itself has contaminated fresh groundwater. No occurrences are known where hydraulic fracturing fluids have moved upward from the zone of fracturing of a horizontal well into the fresh drinking water.” Quoted from the Association of American State Geologists statement.
Record amounts of oil and natural gas are being produced in North Dakota. However, about 1/3 of the natural gas is being flared because of inadequate pipelines to carry the gas to market. This article explains why the state needs more pipelines to develop the resource efficiently.
“The chances of rogue fractures due to shale gas fracking operations extending beyond 0.6 kilometres from the injection source is a fraction of one percent, according to new research led by Durham University. The analysis is based on data from thousands of fracking operations in the USA and natural rock fractures in Europe and Africa.” Quoted from the Durham University press release.
Drilling for oil in the shale formations of Texas and North Dakota often results in the flaring of natural gas – as some of these areas are not served by natural gas pipelines. Although this practice is somewhat of an industry tradition it is drawing increasing criticism because it wastes a non-renewable energy resource, is an economic loss, produces air pollution and contributes to climate change.
“Hydraulic fracturing of shale formations to extract natural gas has no direct connection to reports of groundwater contamination [...] many problems ascribed to hydraulic fracturing are related to processes common to all oil and gas drilling operations, such as casing failures or poor cement jobs.” Quoted from the University of Texas at Austin press release.
The EIA Natural Gas Weekly Update has an interesting graph that tracks the month-by-month dry gas production growth from various shale gas fields in the United States. For example, it shows that production from the Haynesville Shale started to increase significantly in early 2009 and continued until today the Haynesville is the most prolific dry gas producer.