In recent years, production of oil and natural gas in the U.S. has skyrocketed, increasing supplies and driving down prices. This is good news for utilities that want to covert their power plants from coal to natural gas, as well as drivers who like to see lower prices at the pump.
However, recent reports suggest that companies may be having trouble drilling for fuel in an efficient manner. For example, in North Dakota, the Wall Street Journal reports that the state's wells have burned off about 10.3 billion standard cubic feet of fuel. This would have been worth $50 million had it been sold on the market.
The problem is one related to capacity. When drillers uncover oil, it often includes bubbles of natural gas that must be dealt with. In fact, a recent article on Manufacturing.net estimates that each barrel of oil from the Bakken shale region contains enough gas to heat a home for four days. Unfortunately, without an infrastructure in place to capture the gas, drillers have little choice but to burn it all off.
Some energy companies have recognized this problem and are taking steps to address it. Norwegian company Statoil is working with GE to develop technology to capture, compress and store natural gas, which will then be used to power oil field equipment.
"We'll be able to cut flaring, reduce emissions, and capture the revenue stream," Russell Rankin, Statoil regional manager, told the news source.
Such efforts may require new, custom components. As the oil industry moves to broaden this goal, CNC machine shops will provide them with what they need.