Industrial Commission tweaks gas capture rules, giving industry 'flexibility'

Nov 21, 2018

North Dakota Industrial Commission Meeting (11/20/18).
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The North Dakota Industrial Commission has approved some amendments to its Guidance Policy on gas capture.

The changes will give industry some flexibility, based on the availability of gas processing plants and pipeline technology. But for now, the Commission has not changed the gas capture goals' timing – pending further work.

The Department of Mineral Resources had also suggested delaying the stated goals of 88 percent capture – which was set for this November First – and 91 percent capture in 2020 by two years. DMR director Lynn Helms told the Commission there are a number of reasons – including a workforce shortage that has delayed gas processing plant construction, as well as higher-pressure, more productive wells.

"What we're hearing from operators and mid-stream people is, they are totally committed to getting to more than 90 percent capture," Helms told the Commission. "But they simply can't achieve it in the time frame that the current goals set."

But a recent announcement by the federal Bureau of Land Management to give the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation at Forth Berthold regulatory power on trust lands weighed into that decision. That change takes effect next February. And Commission members want more information on how that will affect the gas capture numbers.

"Do we think that if we added the flexibility here, and exclude MHA, we might find ourselves in compliance or near compliance?" asked Commission chairman Gov. Doug Burgum. "If we don't know the answer, I would suggest we do the math and come back to the Commission before we move the goal dates."

Burgum suggested having some meetings with the MHA Nation leadership on its plans for reducing flaring. But he said he fully supports giving the industry some flexibility.

"I think the sum of the flexibility items you're recommending are such that this could help continue to incent much-needed significant capital we need to allow us to get the processing plants and value added projects to capture what we need."