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About that video of lighting tap water on fire – Naturally occurring shallow methane occurs all across North Dakota, even where there’s no drilling

Naturally occurring shallow methane exists all across North Dakota.  Methane in water wells has been a known condition for 100 years. 

I don’t think fracking has anything to do with shallow methane 200 or 300 miles away. I seriously doubt fracking caused methane to seep into wells 80 years before fracking was used.

A video with over 400,000 views shows a guy lighting tap water on fire. Creator asserts he works in the North Dakota oil fields, which leaves you with the implication the methane in the water is caused by fracking. The commenters on the video quickly reach that scientific conclusion based on an unverified 54 second video from an undisclosed location.

Here’s the poorly known issue.

Methane occurs naturally at shallow depths and can get into ground water. This happens all over the state including counties that have never had oil and gas drilling. This has happened for a century.

The Dickinson Press provides an explanation: YouTube video sparks discussion of gas in ND water.

Shallow methane is present everywhere in North Dakota

The article cites research from the North Dakota Geological Survey:

The researchers tested 4,325 State Water Commission monitoring wells in every county except Sioux County and detected methane in 20 percent of the wells. They also tested more than 100 private water wells with historical reports of gas and detected methane in 25.

Shallow methane has been around for a century

Ninety years ago, the methane from one water well was gathered and used for illumination:

The Geological Survey has a photo from 1920 of a storage tank in Edgeley that was used to collect the gas from an artesian well in the area and use it to light a hotel.

I don’t think there was a lot of fracking going on in 1920. The Bakken field was discovered in the 1950s. Check out the Bakken-only production data, which shows the first well started producing in 1953.

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One thought on “About that video of lighting tap water on fire – Naturally occurring shallow methane occurs all across North Dakota, even where there’s no drilling

  1. Pingback: New York State bans fracking and economic growth | Outrun Change

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