Natural gas flaring on Ft. Berthold remains an issue

Feb 16, 2018

ND Mineral Resources director Lynn Helms
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The flaring of natural gas in North Dakota dropped to 13 percent in December.

In November, that figure was 14 percent.

The highest amount of flaring comes from wells on the Fort Berthold Reservation, where 20 percent of gas was flared.

The state has an overall goal of reducing flaring to 12 percent by November. But state mineral resources director Lynn Helms said that may be tough to do. He said the one big impediment is securing rights-of-way on Bureau of Indian Affairs controlled land for new natural gas gathering pipelines.

"There's conversations going on about how we can take some of the hurdles out of that right-of-way process," Helms said.

Helms said there are numerous approvals required on BIA land. He’s hoping that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will come to this May’s Williston Basin Petroleum Conference, and he will be able to get together with tribal, state and the BIA to find some ways to shorten the process.

Also, as gas production increases, the state’s current infrastructure – pipelines and processing plants – is pushing capacity. Helms said natural gas is now making money.

"There was a time period, in '16 and '17, where it was a money loser," Helms said. "Every cubic foot of natural gas produced cost money."

Helms said that's how the state got in the position of not having enough infrastructure for natural gas capture and processing.

"There is no spare capacity," Helms said. "As fast as you can build it, they will fill it."

Helms said he's been telling industry to commit to the new natural gas infrastructure projects.

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