The rate of natural gas flaring by producers in North Dakota declined to an average of 7.5% this year through September, bringing the level of gas burned at the wellhead of the production site below the state’s target for 2021, a new federal report showed.

north dakota gas capture

North Dakota set a gas capture goal to keep flaring/venting at 8% of production or less.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said Wednesday that, in early 2020, natural gas production in North Dakota plummeted because of pandemic-related impacts. Output last year fell to 1.9 Bcf/d in May from 3.2 Bcf/d in March. But it bounced back to near pre-pandemic levels rapidly, reaching 2.9 Bcf/d by October 2020.

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Across the full window of recovery, from April 2020 to September 2021, producers met the state capture target for every month except July of this year, EIA said.

Meeting capture targets “required a buildout” of gathering lines to transport natural gas from wells to processing plants as well as upgrades to those plants to better enable the removal of impurities and heavier hydrocarbons from natural gas, EIA researchers said.

North Dakota Industrial Commission data show that natural gas processing capacity in the state increased to 3.4 Bcf/d in 2020 from 1 Bcf/d in 2013. The Commission expects it to exceed 4.0 Bcf/d by the end of this year.

In July 2014, North Dakota adopted natural gas capture targets in response to increased flaring in the state’s Bakken and Three Forks formations, EIA noted.  

“The rapid development of hydrocarbon resources” in North Dakota had in the past “outpaced the ability of regional infrastructure to process and transport associated natural gas from crude oil production,” EIA researchers said. “Flared natural gas produced from oil wells increased as a result of inadequate gathering and processing infrastructure.”

In 2013, they said, just prior to the new capture targets taking effect, more than 30% of the natural gas produced in North Dakota was flared. But the buildout of gathering lines and improvements made to processing plants since then have helped the state steadily reduce that figure.

Oil and natural gas production in North Dakota, meanwhile, rose in September over August.

Natural gas output in September averaged 3.02 Bcf/d, according to North Dakota’s Department of Mineral Resources (DMR). That was up from 2.96 Bcf/d in the previous month.  

Oil production also rose month/month to 1.113 million b/d, from 1.017 million b/d.