The oil patch is booming
in North Dakota, catching the attention of many, including a native
man. But, he’s not interested in the black gold, so much as he is a
yellow flame. He’s come back to capture what other oilmen consider a
The oil reserves in
North Dakota lie in a formation known as the Bakken and may hold as much
as 400 billion barrels of oil – 25 times larger than the reserves of
the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The discovery has producers
flocking to the play to drill.
As they produce the oil
and bring it to the surface, natural gas is also produced. This is
called casinghead gas or associated gas. In the past, the natural gas
could not be profitably sold due to the lack of transmission pipelines,
and was simply burned at the oil field in a process known as flaring.
Growing concerns of
increasing greenhouse-gas emissions have prompted worldwide efforts to
reduce gas flaring. Many countries are even outlawing the practice. In
other places, the gas is re-injected into the formation to recover later
as natural gas. This re-injection also helps in better oil recovery.
But, for North Dakota
native Mark Wald, the casinghead gas is the way to power the future. In a
story in the Grand Forks Herald, he explains why he set out to turn
this waste into a profitable resource.
“I think everybody sees
the tremendous waste and don’t understand why it’s happening. I see
tremendous potential,” said Mark Wald.
His big idea: capture
the gas, run it through a generator and create electricity to pump power
to nearby transmission lines and into the power grid. Thus, was born
Blaise Energy, Inc.
According to the report
in the Herald, Wald says he can capture 600 million cubic feet of
natural gas from well sites and turn it into 5 megawatts of electricity.
It’s enough to power about 5,000 homes.
Wald calls it a win-win… here he is again in the Herald story:
“It’s really a win for
the local co-ops because they are starved for power in some parts, and
for oil producers, it shows some proactive stewardship on their part,”
Wald definitely has the attention of state officials who awarded him a $375,000 grant earlier this year.
In 2008, nearly
one-third of natural gas produced in North Dakota had to be flared
because there were not sufficient pipelines or transportation systems to
get the natural gas to the market. At present, only 17 percent is being
The state is working on a
billion dollars worth of infrastructure improvements to create the
needed pipelines to solve the need for flaring. However, the state says
gaps will still exist and not all sites will have access to pipelines.
That’s where they believe Wald’s work will be most effective.
“We’re focusing on the
greatest problematic areas of flaring, away from where the pipeline
infrastructure is or will be,” he said. “We’re targeting sites that are
already electrified, most times the grid is there.”
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