Although it might appear that we have solved the problem of flaring off natural gas that was regarded as such a primitive waste in previous decades, in fact the same thing is still going on in the Bakken Shale of North Dakota.
The above graph shows the percentage of gas that is being flared off and how it has opened such an extraordinary gap between the gas that is brought out of the ground and what ends up in the pipelines. The blue line is production in thousands of cubic meters (mcm). The green line below it is the amount of gas that is actually put into sales. The scale for both is at the left. The yellow line is the percentage of gas that is being flared off instead of being put into pipelines. The flaring figure hovered around 10 percent during the early years of development of the Bakken but rose to 40 percent in 2009 and has since climbed back up to that peak in 2012. Thus almost half the gas in the Bakken is being flared off. The reason is that the infrastructure has not yet been built to connect it to consumers or to store it back in the ground, as is being done in Alaska and other mature fields. Flaring gas, of course, is a huge waste, both in terms of lost resources and in putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
The numbers are prepared by the International Energy Agency in its report, “Golden Rules for the Golden Age of Gas.” IEA argues that we are indeed entering a golden age of gas but that these resources should be developed in a systematic fashion so that gas is not lost to waste. IEA argues that fields should not be developed until the infrastructure is in place to make sure the gas can either be stored or delivered to customers.