Natural gas production in North Dakota’s portion of the Bakken Shale formation has grown significantly, alongside the rapid rise in oil production in the state. Natural gas production has outpaced additions to the state’s gas pipeline capacity and processing facilities. As a result, the amount of nonmarketed natural gas output continued to grow in North Dakota through the end of 2013, rising to an average of 0.31 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d), almost double the 0.16 Bcf/d levels in 2011, according to the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources. The temporary closure of a processing plant at the end of the year led to an increase in both the volume and the percentage of nonmarketed natural gas that continued into 2014. Most nonmarketed natural gas is flared into the atmosphere.
Natural gas that is flared releases carbon dioxide as a byproduct of combustion. Carbon dioxide is a less powerful greenhouse gas than methane, the primary constituent of natural gas. From 2008 to 2012, North Dakota accounted for 0.5% of total gross natural gas withdrawals in the United States, but the amount of gas that producers flared in North Dakota accounted for 22% of all natural gas that was either flared or vented in the United States, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data.