Quantcast

SkyTruth Tracks Fracking From the Edge of Space

Energy

SkyTruth

For the past year, our satellite monitoring of infrared data from around the world has detected immense amounts of light and heat coming from natural gas flares in North Dakota's Bakken Shale. A recent study concluded that 30 percent of the natural gas produced in North Dakota is being wasted by a process called flaring, and the carbon dioxide emissions alone are equivalent to the annual emissions of 1 million automobiles.

This does not even touch the unknown air quality impacts from burning fracked gas in large, open flames at ground-level. To study this issue further, we are teaming up with a non-profit called Space For All to send cameras and instruments on a weather-balloon to the edge of space—well, the upper tropopause—to examine air quality and infrared emissions from oil shale fracking and flaring.

But what is flaring and why is it an issue? Flaring is the practice of burning off natural gas to dispose of it, primarily this happens right after a well is put into production or when other methods of using the gas are more expensive to implement than its market value. Operators do not want methane (the primary hydrocarbon in natural gas) accumulating on their wellpads where it can explode, and burning it off is slightly less harmful to the climate than venting it directly to the atmosphere.

But there is so much flaring going on that the fields around Williston, ND, positively glow, and there is limited information on other air quality impacts from flaring all of this gas produced as a by-product from fracking for oil. Help us Skytruth the Bakken to find out what is really going on ...

Flaring and rig lights in the Bakken Shale are clearly visible, but we want to better understand the difference between flaring and use this data to better detect wasteful flaring around the globe.

With your help, we are planning to go to North Dakota to groundtruth satellite detections of flaring, and launch cameras and air quality instruments to the edge of space, tethered to a high-altitude balloon rig. We will combine our ground observations with detections from the balloon rig, and compare that to satellite data to measure the amount of natural gas flaring there. This will help us test the accuracy of our satellite-based flaring detections so we can do a better job of monitoring environmentally damaging (and unnecessarily wasteful) flaring that happens in the Bakken and around the world. The more good data we can collect, the more we can help groups that are working to reduce and eliminate it.

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

——–

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A new study shows that half of all Arctic warming and corresponding sea-loss during the late 20th century was caused by ozone-depleting substances. Here, icebergs discharged from Greenland's Jakobshavn Glacier. Kevin Krajick / Earth Institute / EurekAlert!

The world awakened to the hole in the ozone layer in 1985, which scientists attributed it to ozone depleting substances. Two years later, in Montreal, the world agreed to ban the halogen compounds causing the massive hole over Antarctica. Research now shows that those chemicals didn't just cut a hole in the ozone layer, they also warmed up the Arctic.

Read More
Diane Wilson holds up a bag full of nurdles she collected from one of Formosa's outfall areas on Jan. 15. Julie Dermansky / DeSmogBlog

By Julie Dermansky

On the afternoon of Jan. 15, activist Diane Wilson kicked off a San Antonio Estuary Waterkeeper meeting on the side of the road across from a Formosa plastics manufacturing plant in Point Comfort, Texas.

After Wilson and the waterkeeper successfully sued Formosa, the company agreed to no longer release even one of the tiny plastic pellets known as nurdles into the region's waterways. The group of volunteers had assembled that day to check whether the plant was still discharging these raw materials of plastics manufacturing.

Read More
Sponsored

By Simon Coghlan and Kobi Leins

A remarkable combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and biology has produced the world's first "living robots."

Read More
Malaysian Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin (front 2nd L) and officials inspect a container containing plastic waste shipment on Jan. 20, 2020 before sending back to the countries of origin. AFP via Getty Images

The Southeast Asian country Malaysia has sent 150 shipping containers packed with plastic waste back to 13 wealthy countries, putting the world on notice that it will not be the world's garbage dump, as CNN reported. The countries receiving their trash back include the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Canada.

Read More
Trump leaves after delivering a speech at the Congress Centre during the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos on Jan. 21, 2020. JIM WATSON / AFP via Getty Images

U.S. President Donald Trump dismissed the concerns of environmental activists as "pessimism" in a speech to political and business leaders at the start of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on Tuesday.

Read More