Gas Drilling, North Dakota
Northwestern North Dakota is one of the least-densely populated parts of the United States. Cities and people are scarce, but satellite imagery shows the area has been aglow at night in recent years. The reason: the area is home to the Bakken shale formation, a site where oil production is booming.
Companies hoping to extract oil from the Bakken formation have drilled hundreds of new wells in the last few years; natural gas often bubbles up to the surface as part of the process. Lacking the infrastructure to pipe the gas away, many drillers simply burn it in a practice known as flaring.
On November 12, 2012, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite captured this nighttime view of widespread gas flaring throughout the area. Many of the specks of light are evidence of gas flaring, though others may be the lights around drilling equipment. Some of the brighter areas correspond to towns and cities including Williston, Minot, and Dickinson...