"Things You Wouldn't Know If We Didn't Blog Intermittently."
03 January 2013
Fracking visible from space
North-western North Dakota is home to the Bakken
shale formation, where fracking has led to an oil boom. Most of the
bright lights are natural gas from wells being burned because the region
lacks the infrastructure to pipe all the gas away. Gas production has
increased rapidly in recent years but 30% is flared. Image: NASA Earth
Observatory image by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon
As explained at The Guardian, North Dakota is now visible from space because of the light generated by fracking-related activity.
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 gas
and oil production are booming.
On November 12, 2012, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP
satellite captured this nighttime view of widespread drilling
throughout the area. Most of the bright specks are lights associated
with drilling equipment and temporary housing near drilling sites,
though a few are evidence of gas flaring. Some of the brighter areas correspond to towns and cities including Williston, Minot, and Dickinson.
The image was captured by the VIIRS “day-night band,” which detects
light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared and uses
“smart” light sensors to observe dim signals such as gas flares,
auroras, wildfires, city lights, and reflected moonlight. When VIIRS
acquired the image, the Moon was in its waning crescent phase, so the
landscape was reflecting only a small amount of light.