Hydrocarbon emissions in the Bakken oil field in North Dakota
Monday, 15 December 2014
Within the past five years, the production of oil and natural gas in the United States from tight formations has increased rapidly due to advances in technology, such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. With the expansion of oil and natural gas extraction operations comes the need to better quantify their emissions and potential impacts on climate forcing and air quality. The Bakken formation within the Williston Basin in North Dakota has emerged as a large contributor to the recent growth in oil production and accounts for over 10% of domestic production. Close to 30% of associated gas co-produced with the oil is flared. Very little independent information is currently available to assess the oil and gas industry emissions and their impacts on regional air quality. In May 2014, an airborne field campaign was conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Earth System Research Laboratory and the University of Michigan to investigate hydrocarbon emissions from operations in the oil field. Here, we present results from the analysis for methane, several non-methane hydrocarbons and combustion tracers in 72 discrete air samples collected by the aircraft on nine different flights. Samples were obtained in the boundary layer upwind and downwind of the operations and in the free troposphere. We will show results of a multiple species analysis and compare them with field campaign data from other U.S. oil and gas fields, measurements from NOAA’s Global Monitoring Division long-term observing network, and available bottom-up information on emissions from oil and gas operations.