Responding to a shareholder resolution earlier this year, Continental Resources Inc. said it plans to reduce flaring of associated natural gas at its oil wells in the Bakken Shale to “as close to zero percent flaring as possible.”

In a 10-K form filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Thursday, the Oklahoma City-based company said it had reduced flaring in the North Dakota portion of the Bakken by 50% in 2012, but it pledged to do more.

“We recognize the environmental and financial risks associated with natural gas flaring and manage these risks on an ongoing basis,” Continental said. “We set internal flaring reduction targets and to date have taken numerous actions to reduce flaring from our operated well sites. Our ultimate goal is to reduce natural gas flaring from our operated well sites to as close to 0% flaring as possible.”

Mercy Investment Services submitted a shareholder resolution in January that was aimed at getting Continental to reduce the volume of natural gas being flared at its wells in the Bakken.

Continental told the SEC that in December 2012, it flared about 10% of produced natural gas in the North Dakota portion of the Bakken, and 6% in Montana. Flaring was “negligible” in the South Central Oklahoma Oil Province and Northwest Cana areas because of existing transportation infrastructure.

“Through our [health, safety, security and environmental] global initiatives, we will continue to work toward maintaining an industry leading position with respect to flaring reduction efforts in North Dakota and our other key operating areas,” Continental said. “In the Medicine Pole Hills units, we substantially reduced impacts from flaring by removing all gas engines that drive high pressure air injection and converting to electric engines.

“We expect to further reduce flared natural gas volumes as we continue to build out transportation infrastructure and transition to a greater use of [multi-pad] drilling in 2013 and beyond. Our flaring reduction progress is and will be dependent upon external factors such as investment from third parties in the development of gas gathering systems, state regulations, and the granting of reasonable right-of-way access by land owners, among other factors.”

Bakken oil wells are the source for a large percentage of the natural gas flared in the United State. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), insufficient natural gas pipeline capacity and processing facilities in the region means more than 35% of North Dakota’s natural gas production was flared or otherwise not marketed in 2011 (see Daily GPI, Oct. 12, 2012).

North Dakota has committed to a goal of reducing flaring to no more than 10% of gas produced, by building pipelines and processing infrastructure to handle associated gas from the oil wells (see Daily GPI, Aug. 13, 2012). Another option under consideration is to use mobile facilities to take gas that would have been flared and use it to make fertilizer (see Daily GPI, Aug. 17, 2012).

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