Oil drillers in North Dakota's Bakken shale fields are allowing nearly a third of the natural gas they drill to burn off into the air, with a value of more than $100 million per month, according to a study to be released on Monday.
Reuters has what it calls an "exclusive": According to a report from Ceres, a nonprofit group that tracks environmental records of public companies, "flaring" - letting natural gas burn into the air - has tripled in the past three years.
Roughly 29 percent of natural gas extracted in North Dakota was flared in May, down from an all-time high of 36 percent in September 2011, says Reuters.
But the volume of natural gas produced has nearly tripled in that timeframe to about 900,000 million cubic feet per day, boosting flaring in the state to roughly 266,000 million cubic feet per day, according to North Dakota state and Ceres data.
Hey, that's money into thin air! So energy companies are working to build more pipelines and processing facilities to connect many of the state's 9,000 wells - a number expected to hit 50,000 by 2030 - so the gas can be stored immediately instead of burned.
How big is the problem? In February, Resilience.org noted that the flaring could be seen from outer space.
Flaring has become a key issue for environmentalists and businesses alike. Last year, RBN Energy published a primer on flaring, along with this graph showing the volume of burning and the corresponding money lost: