Industrial Commission considering 'tweaks' to natural gas capture rules

Apr 16, 2018

State mineral resources director Lynn Helms at his "Director's Cut" media briefing 3/13/18.
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

North Dakota’s Industrial Commission will be looking at what state mineral resources director Lynn Helms calls “tweaks” to its natural gas flaring policy.

Helms said the oil and gas industry is recommending the Commission keep the rules in place for both reservation and non-reservation lands, and wants the Commission to stick with its gas capture goals. But Helms said the rules might change when it comes to “stranded gas.”

"Some companies, mostly smaller companies, have purchased assets that lie outside the core area," Helms said. "Some of those are now economic, or above break-even oil price. But the gas-gathering infrastructure out there is based on very few wells, and the wells it's based on were drilled years ago."

Helms said it creates a situation where if a company were to go out there and drill one well, it would overwhelm the gas-gathering capacity.

Helms said those companies are asking for time to get infrastructure in place.

"Not necessarily from gas-gathering goals, but that they could do that and not end up with the wells having production restrictions imposed," Helms said.

Helms said the Commission may call for more frequent meetings with companies that are not meeting the gas capture goals.

In the fourth quarter of 2018, the goals will go up to 88 percent gas capture – meaning up to 12 percent can be flared. Helms said he will recommend no changes in that target.

"We definitely want to hold their feet to the fire," Helms said. "We want them to make the investments and manage their business so we can keep increasing that capture percentage."