Publication Detail

Energy Intensity and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Tight Oil Production in the Bakken Formation



Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways (STEPS)

The Bakken formation has contributed to the recent rapid increase in U.S. oil production, reaching a peak production of >1.2 × 106 barrels per day in early 2015. In this study, we estimate the energy intensity and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from 7271 Bakken wells drilled from 2006 to 2013. We model energy use and emissions using the Oil Production Greenhouse Gas Emissions Estimator (OPGEE) model, supplemented with an open-source drilling and fracturing model, GHGfrack. Overall well-to-refinery-gate (WTR) consumption of natural gas, diesel, and electricity represent 1.3%, 0.2%, and 0.005% of produced crude energy content, respectively. Fugitive emissions are modeled for a “typical” Bakken well using previously published results of atmospheric measurements. Flaring is a key driver of emissions: wells that flared in 2013 had a mean flaring rate that was ≈500 standard cubic feet per barrel or ≈14% of the energy content of the produced crude oil. Resulting production-weighted mean GHG emissions in 2013 were 10.2 g of CO2 equivalent GHGs per megajoule (henceforth, gCO2eq/MJ) of crude. Between-well variability gives a 5–95% range of 2–28 gCO2eq/MJ. If flaring is completely controlled, Bakken crude compares favorably to conventional U.S. crude oil, with 2013 emissions of 3.5 gCO2eq/MJ for nonflaring wells, compared to the U.S. mean of ≈8 gCO2eq/MJ.