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NDSU in study of gas conversion

GRAND FORKS -- The University of North Dakota Energy and Environmental Research Center is studying whether it's economical to convert flare gas, a waste product from oil drilling, to fertilizer.

The one-year project, led by North Dakota State University, could benefit North Dakota agriculture by creating a low-cost and stable local supply of nitrogen fertilizer, said project leader Cole Gustafson, chairman of NDSU's agribusiness and applied economics department.

"We think there's going to be considerable interest" in this study among drilling companies, he said. "Right now, flare gas is a wasted resource."

Flare gas is a form of natural gas that contains high levels of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Considered a waste product, it is usually burned.

New ways to capture flare gas should ease critics' concerns about its impact on air quality and climate change, Gustafson said. Laws are in place to limit "flaring," the burning of flare gas, to one year, otherwise companies face penalties, he said.

Knudson is a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by

Forum Communications Co.