What Wastes Energy and Stands Out From Space?


When looking at images of the Earth at night captured by NASA, you expect to see more light in densely populated areas and less light in more rural areas. That’s normal. However, NPR points out, you can also find a big cluster of lights in an area of what should be mostly empty Western plains. The light blob on the top left of the image above is located in North-Dakota, near the Canadian border, and it is caused by the oil & gas industry there. It is a relatively recent development, and wouldn’t have been visible 6 years ago.A lot of this light is caused by natural gas flaring. Indeed, not all gas is captured for whatever reasons, and since this terribly wasteful practice of just burning the extra gas is legal there, around 1/3 of all gas extracted is flared.

via TreeHugger


NPR writes:

What we have here is an immense and startlingly new oil and gas field — nighttime evidence of an oil boom created by a technology called fracking. Those lights are rigs, hundreds of them, lit at night, or fiery flares of natural gas. One hundred fifty oil companies, big ones, little ones, wildcatters, have flooded this region, drilling up to eight new wells every day on what is called the Bakken formation. Altogether, they are now producing 660,000 barrels a day — double the output two years ago — so that in no time at all, North Dakota is now the second-largest oil producing state in America. Only Texas produces more, and those lights are a sign that this region is now on fire … to a disturbing degree. Literally. (source)