© 2024 Wyoming Public Media
800-729-5897 | 307-766-4240
Wyoming Public Media is a service of the University of Wyoming
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Transmission & Streaming Disruptions
A regional collaboration of public media stations that serve the Rocky Mountain States of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Wyoming Ranks Third Nationally In Natural Gas Flaring

Methane is flared from a well pad in North Dakota's Bakken formation in photo taken during a 2014 NOAA research project.
Jeff Peischl

Over the last few years, oil production has spiked in the U.S., with help from states such as Wyoming and Colorado. And the boom brought a nearly 50 percent increase in natural gas flaring between 2017 and 2018, according to the Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership, which is managed by the World Bank.

The increases are concentrated in the Bakken and Permian oil fields in North Dakota and Texas, respectively. Both states dwarf Wyoming, which ranks third nationally in the amount of natural gas flared.

Flaring is the act of burning off excess natural gas when it can't economically be stored and sent elsewhere.

The Trump Administration has taken steps to roll back the primary federal regulations around flaring. Wyoming and Colorado have some state rules, but Jon Goldstein, with the Environmental Defense Fund, would like to see more.

"Oil and gas companies will continue to invest resources on getting oil to market until they're forced to get that gas to market and not just flare it, burn it off. It'll take regulation to incentivize that," Goldstein said.

Phil Flynn, an analyst with the PRICE Futures Group, a consulting firm, believes the flaring increase is a short-term problem.

"We're going to look back at the flaring in retrospect as growing pains in an industry that's revolutionizing the world," Flynn said.

In addition to rolling back rules around flaring natural gas, the Trump Administration's also working to relax the regulation of methane, which is essentially unburned natural gas that can escape during production and distribution. Methane has 80 times the heat-trapping potency of carbon dioxide over 20 years.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Cooper McKim, at cmckim5@uwyo.edu.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Reno, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Before Wyoming, Cooper McKim has reported for NPR stations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and South Carolina. He's reported breaking news segments and features for several national NPR news programs. Cooper is the host of the limited podcast series Carbon Valley. Cooper studied Environmental Policy and Music. He's an avid jazz piano player, backpacker, and podcast listener.
Related Content