News Ticker

Ever wonder about those satellite images in the media that show bright lights in the middle of sparsely populated areas of western North Dakota? Magazine articles published recently regarding oil production and associated gas flaring in the Bakken oil play show the night sky looking more like New York City, Boston, or Chicago than rural western North Dakota.

Realistic satellite images of associated natural gas flaring in the Bakken oil play region of North Dakota.
Inaccurately derived flare images that are usually highly processed, manipulated, and often amplified 100x.

Many published images tout new types of satellite imaging used to examine gas flares but seldom explain how the images are derived. These images are misleading in that they give the uninformed public the idea that flares are literally lighting up many square miles of prairie countryside, creating visible light similar to large metro areas.

So does the sky in western North Dakota really light up like a million-person metropolis? A casual drive on any evening through counties of the Bakken oil play shows otherwise. So how are these satellite images being formulated?

Researchers from the University of North Dakota (UND) Energy & Environmental Research Center and the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Science’s Department of Earth System Science and Policy joined forces to get a better understanding of these bright satellite images.

Following a year-and-a-half of study, a report has been released revealing the science and the factsbehind these images. Download the project summary now.

For more information on the EERC's Bakken resources, click here.