North Dakota Produces More Than One Million Barrels of Oil in 2014

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The red arrow points to the visible glow of nighttime drilling on North Dakota’s Bakken shale formation
The red arrow points to the visible glow of nighttime drilling on North Dakota’s Bakken shale formation. What is surprising is how this bright nighttime activity stands out from the normally dark prairie and rivals the lighting of more eastern cities.

April 2014 witnessed a key milestone in North Dakota’s oil production when it surpassed one million barrels a day. North Dakota has tripled its oil production in the last three years, with an average daily increase of 3,000 barrels. Texas and North Dakota together account for 48% of domestic oil production. However, Texas has long occupied the national consciousness as being the domestic king of oil production. Think of Dallas and JR Ewing with his big hat, office, and giant oilman swagger.

Chocolate Smoothies and Oil Spill Cleanup

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Oil accumulating on the coast of Louisiana during the Deep Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Oil accumulating on the coast of Louisiana during the Deep Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

No one disputes that an oil spill at sea is one of the nastier types of industrial accidents. Certainly, no oil company wants this to happen and works hard to prevent it as damage to the environment, negative public reaction, increased government scrutiny, and a big hit to company finances are all probable outcomes for such an event. The spreading oil sheen at the ocean’s surface is a visible marker of the harm being done to marine wildlife, fisheries, and the fouling of nearby beaches, coastal marshes, and other ecologically sensitive areas. Deeper in the water column more harm is done that is less well understood than what is more easily observed at the surface. During the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico scientists discovered underwater oil plumes, some nearly 10 miles long, which depleted oxygen and harmed ocean life. Moreover, oil accumulated on the sea floor and damaged coral and other ocean-floor dwelling organisms.

The Perfect Symmetry: Railways and Oil Production

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Weekly US Crude Oil Production

Quite simply: As crude oil production surges so does the need for rail transportation of that oil. The very same observation applies to natural gas production. In 2008, U.S. Class 1 railroads dealt with 9,500 carloads of crude oil; in 2013 that number increased to 407,761 carloads. That is a whopping forty-three fold increase in rail traffic! Each carload holds approximately 30,000 gallons of oil. And while pipelines offer an alternative to oil transport by rail, the pipeline infrastructure has not dramatically increased its capacity to accommodate the enormous increase in American and Canadian production. Railroads also offer a geographic flexibility to help oil reach refineries located across the U.S.

Titan - The Planet-Sized Hydrocarbon Factory

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A view of Titan’s north polar regions with liquid hydrocarbon seas.

Since 2004, the Cassini Satellite has been orbiting Saturn and its moons and the surprises are spectacular. Cassini can determine the chemical composition of materials by the way they absorb and reflect infrared light. One of Saturn’s moons, Titan, shares the unique honor with Earth as being the only bodies in the Solar System to have a stable liquid at its surface. But while Earth’s surface is mainly water, Titan’s is mainly methane and other hydrocarbons. Instead of a water cycle, Titan is a planet-sized hydrocarbon factory, with hydrocarbon rains that collect in vast seas and solid dunes near the equator. The accompanying photo shows several lakes (dark spots) near Titan’s northern polar region, several of which are larger than Lake Michigan, and one sea (Ligeria Mare) rivals the area of the Caspian Sea.

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Oil, Gas, and Mining will explore all topics relevant to best industry practice. A primary goal will be to provide articles that help companies eliminate or severely limit the prospects for environmental damage.

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