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Ohio Utica Shale

North Dakota Senate defeats new anti-flaring laws

By Bob Downing Published: February 14, 2013

From the Associated Press:

The North Dakota Senate snuffed out a measure Wednesday aimed at curbing the practice of wasting natural gas as an unwanted byproduct of production.

The bill, arguably the toughest to date against the oil industry in North Dakota, was defeated 34-13.

Sen. Tim Mathern's measure would have cut an exemption commonly used by oil companies claiming an economic hardship of connecting a well to a natural gas pipeline. Oil companies in North Dakota can flare natural gas for a year without paying taxes or royalties on it. After that, companies can request an extension because of the difficulty of connecting the well to a natural gas pipeline. The exemption is nearly always granted by state regulators, who took no position on the legislation.

About one-third of North Dakota's gas production has been burned off, or "flared," since the oil boom began about five years ago. Less than 1 percent of natural gas is flared from oil fields nationwide, and less than 3 percent worldwide, according to the U.S. Energy Department's Energy Information Administration.

Mathern, a Fargo Democrat, told fellow lawmakers Wednesday that the amount of natural gas flared in North Dakota could heat 500,000 homes and accounts for one-quarter off all natural gas burned off nationally.

Satellite photos of western North Dakota's burning oil patch can be seen clearly from space, he said.

"It looks like a metropolitan area at night," Mathern said. "It glows."

Democrats and Republicans have increasingly been critical of flaring in North Dakota though legislative efforts to crack down on the practice have been near nonexistent.

"We seem content to turn our heads and ignore natural gas flaring," Mathern said.

Oil and pipeline companies have told lawmakers that they're working as quickly as possible to capture the gas and have invested $4 billion to move it to market.

North Dakota's oil production has increased exponentially in the past decade with improved horizontal drilling techniques into the Bakken shale and the Three Forks formation below it. North Dakota was the ninth-largest oil-producing state in 2006, but has since risen to No.2, behind Texas.

Sen. Bill Bowman, R-Bowman, encouraged fellow senators to be patient and allow companies to catch up.

"The way we're growing it takes time to coordinate and capture gas and take it to refineries," Bowman said. "It does take time for these things to happen and it's happening.

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Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management State agency Web site.

ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. State drilling permits. List is updated weekly.

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio State University Extension.

Ohio Farm Bureau.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a Granville-based group that represents 1,500 Ohio energy-related companies.

Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program.

Energy In Depth, a trade group.

Marcellus and Utica Shale Resource Center by Ohio law firm Bricker & Eckler.

Utica Shale, a compilation of Utica shale activities.

Landman Report Card, a site that looks at companies involved in gas and oil leases.FracFocus, a compilation of chemicals used in fracking individual wells as reported voluntarily by some drillers.

Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.

Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.

Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.

National Geographic's The Great Shale Rush.

The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.

Buckeye Forest Council.

Earthjustice, a national eco-group.

Stop Fracking Ohio.

People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.

Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.

No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.

Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.

Penn State Marcellus Center.

Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.

Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.