North Dakota's Industrial Commission has given Marathon Oil permission to flare natural gas from 21 oil wells in Dunn County.
The wells are close to the Bear Creek natural gas processing plant. But state Mineral Resources director Lynn Helms said the 21 are older wells, and they produce hydrogen sulfide.
"The Bear Creek plant is not designed to process hydrogen sulfide," Helms told the Commission. "It's designed to process sweet Bakken gas."
Helms said if the wells are going to continue to safely produce crude, the gas needs to be flared.
"That's so that the hydrogen sulfide is burned, and doesn't represent a public health and safety hazard," Helms said.
Helms said Marathon has looked at sulfur recovery at the well site, but that’s not economic. And he said One OK is looking into adding sulfur recovery to the Bear Creek plant.
Helms said the order allowing flaring is only good for one year.
"What we're saying is, we'll give you a year," Helms said. "We want to talk to you again, see if the economics have improved or make the H2S problem go away. I didn't feel we should give an open-ended flaring authorization."
Helms said three gas plants in North Dakota do have sulfur recovery.