The Flares Of North Dakota

The Bakken isn’t quite booming again, but on a recent trip there I saw plenty of signs that drilling activity is heating up. One thing that means that is flaring is evident almost everywhere oil is being produced.

As I drove up into the southern portion of the Bakken, the first wells I encountered in large numbers were owned by Continental Resources. I saw little to no flaring associated with the many Continental wells I encountered. The first substantial flare I encountered was on a site operated by ConocoPhillips:

Flare at a ConocoPhillips Well in North Dakota

As I drove further north, I took photos of probably 30 different flares like this:

Flare in North Dakota

There were a lot of new wells being drilled throughout the region, and a lot of hydraulic fracturing activity taking place. As a result, I saw many water lines on the ground, and I saw a lot of pumps owned by recent IPO Select Energy Services Inc:

Fracking Water Pump From Select Energy Services

Further north, there was a lot of activity by WPX Energy Inc. WPX had many wells in operation, and at one site they had more than two dozen storage tanks for oil and produced water (and a visible flare in the center of the picture):

WPX Energy Production Site

The most surprising observation to me was the level of activity being carried out by Marathon Oil Corporation. In the sweet spot of the Bakken, Marathon was everywhere. Here is one Marathon site, with a well being drilled by Helmerich & Payne, Inc.:

Marathon Oil Corporation Drilling Site

One company that appeared to be doing a lot of flaring was Hess Corp. I observed several prominent flares at Hess sites such as this:

Hess Production Site

I will close with an anecdote. The CEO of Hess is John Hess. My traveling colleague for this Bakken tour was former NFL football player Jon Hesse (currently the Sr. VP of Business Development for my company). He tells me that since he works in oil and gas, he often has to explain that he is not “that” John Hess. Maybe John Hess can call Jon Hesse about his flares.

The Bakken is undergoing a resurgence, but the current rig count is still only a quarter of the 200 rigs that were drilling there five years ago. Based on my observations, demand for oilfield services seems to be heating up in the region. There was quite a bit more flaring there than I expected, but it could simply be trending back up in response to the latest ramp-up in drilling activity.

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3 thoughts on “The Flares Of North Dakota”

  1. Nice pictures and comments on whole area, not just the flaring issue.

    FWIW, I actually think companies should be allowed to flare freely. If the cost of the gathering (including delay costs) is not worth it, why force them to conserve the gas? If it was worth it to sell it (and feasible), they would. I wonder how much oil development is being retarded by the flaring restrictions. In some cases, it is even a bizarre catch 22, where the same people who are anti flaring are also obstructing gas pipelines. It can take years to get basic permissions especially on Federal land (even a small crossing).

  2. Yeah, but many of the anti-flaring people are simply anti-fossil fuel period, so of course, they are against pipelines and oil development in general (as they spew righteous indignation while traveling around the country in their fossil-fueled vehicles).

  3. OT, but I thought this was an underplayed story:

    “TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s GS Yuasa Corp will begin mass-producing as early as in 2020 a new lithium-ion battery that would double the range of electric vehicles while keeping prices steady, the Nikkei business daily reported on Tuesday.”


    Better battery announcements are a dime a dozen. But GS Yuasa is a major manufacturer of batteries and a large, publicly held company. Ergo, this announcement will probably hold its charge (ha-ha).

    Really? Battery cars with 400 miles of range?

    There is still a problem of charging times. Most people do not have access to 440 volts, which would speed things up.

    Still, battery cars are becoming more and more viable, and may offer a lower-cost alternative to ICE within several years.

    Also, note that Great Britain is banning ICE new sales as of 2040.

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