Flying over the Bakken

Ecoflight is a non-profit that uses light planes in the service of wildlands conservation. (I got on their mailing list a couple years ago after I took one of their flights over the California desert with pilot Bruce Gordon.)

Today’s offering from EcoFlight’s mailing list included a link to this video of oil drilling in North Dakota’s Bakken Formation. It’s sobering.

Californian that I am, my grasp on North Dakota geography is a little tenuous. I’ve visited the state, but just once, and that was way back in 1996 when Zeke, my ex-wife, and I were all still puppies. I’d imagined the Bakken development as mainly happening in the northwest corner of the state, and we’d visited the southwest corner, near the south unit of Teddy Roosevelt National Park near the bustling micropolis of Medora, where Zeke and I shared a bison burger.

Apparently, despite my assumption, you can see the oil wells flaring at night from the south unit of the Park. One more landscape changed irrevocably in the service of human society.


  1. eyesoars says

    There was a photo a year or two ago, taken from the Space Station. It was taken from the WNW, looking towards Minneapolis and Chicago. Where one would have expected mostly darkness out to the west of the Twin Cities, there’s a huge, brightly lit area.

    If you go to google images, and use ‘bakken fields space station night’, you can see that the area lighted is larger than the twin cities. Most likely, it’s gas being flared off because it’s too expensive to pipe it out.

  2. wcorvi says

    Let he who uses no gas or oil be the first to cast stones. And coal? You think THIS is untidy? Imagine strip mines.

  3. says

    Let he who uses no gas or oil be the first to cast stones. And coal? You think THIS is untidy? Imagine strip mines.

    “The other guy is doing a worse thing” is an excuse used by 4th graders and MRAs.

  4. Sili says

    Why do they always grind the plots bare? I don’t get that. It seems to me that would be more work to cut an acre clear and then just leave it bare than it would to not do that at all.

    Trees are flammable. Do you want people to get killed in a forest fire?

  5. naomibaker says

    1). The pad sites (plots) are cleared for access, as a fire break, and for clean up. The space is sized based on leaving suitable space for fire, as well as access by equipment.

    2) the gas isn’t flared because it is “less valuable” but because the cost of pipelines can’t be paid for by the sale of the gas. When enough gas is produced in an area, a processing plant can be economic if there are any propane and heavier LPG components. If it’s essentially all methane and nitrogen, the most abundant components, only a pipeline to a market can handle it.