The Bakken shale oilfield is single-handedly responsible for most of a mysterious global rise in atmospheric ethane — a pollutant that can harm human health and heat the atmosphere further — peer-reviewed research published last week reveals.
The Bakken, which stretches from North Dakota and Montana into Canada, has made headlines over the past decade for its sudden drilling boom (and an equally sudden job market bust as oil prices have plunged over the past year).
But while the drilling boom made North Dakota the nation's second largest oil-producing state, the amount of hydrocarbons leaking and being deliberately vented from the oil field may have been enough to alter the composition of the Earth's atmosphere slightly, reversing a long-running decline in ethane levels worldwide.
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