What America’s Oil Boom Looks Like From Space

From Forbes

I’ve seen what America’s oil boom looks like from space, and it’s not a pretty picture.

Late last year, NASA released new high-definition photographs of the Earth at Night. In these photos, you can see the city lights of Minneapolis and Chicago glittering against the night sky. A little further west, a patch of lights burns almost as bright in rural North Dakota. The source? The state’s booming oil and gas industry.

As developers have raced to coax oil out of the Bakken shale formation through hydraulic fracturing, they have created a new “metropolis” of oil drilling pads in rural North Dakota – and the oil fields are creating far more than just light pollution.

In the Bakken, much of that light is produced by burning off—or flaring—natural gas that is produced as a byproduct from oil wells. Modest investments are being made in pipeline and processing infrastructure to capture and get the natural gas to market, as well as other solutions such as using it to power onsite generators. But in the race to get the higher-priced oil out of the ground as quickly as possible, many companies are simply burning it.

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