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Aerial Interyear Comparison and Quantification of Methane Emissions Persistence in the Bakken Formation of North Dakota, USA

Authors: 
Englander, J. G., Brandt, A. R., Conley, S., Lyon, D. R., Jackson, R. B.
Year: 
2018
Journal: 
Environmental Science and Technology
Journal Volume/Pages: 
52:8947–8953

We performed an infrared optical gas imaging (OGI) survey by helicopter of hydrocarbon emissions in the Bakken formation of North Dakota. One year after an earlier survey of 682 well pads in September of 2014, the same helicopter crew resurveyed 353 well pads in 2015 to examine the persistence of emissions. Twenty-one newly producing well pads were added in the same sampling blocks. An instrumented aircraft was also used to quantify emissions from 33 plumes identified by aerial OGI. Well pads emitting methane and ethane in 2014 were far more likely to be emitting in 2015 than would be expected by chance; Monte Carlo simulations suggest >5σ deviation (p < 0.0001) from random assignment of detectable emissions between survey years. Scaled up using basin-wide leakage estimates, the emissions quantified by aircraft are sufficient to explain previously observed basin-wide emissions of methane and ethane.

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