Energy

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Members of the North Dakota Public Service Commission say they will be giving some more scrutiny to utilities that have a “transmission facility cost rider” on their monthly bills.

The PSC approved an added $1.02 on an Otter Tail Power Company customer’s monthly bill. The Commission is considering a less than $1 per month charge for transmission costs on MDU electric bills.

Commissioner Julie Fedorchak said the costs of transmission are significant. And she says the PSC will be taking a harder look at these kinds of riders.

Xcel Energy to increase reliability in Fargo

Nov 30, 2017
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Xcel Energy has been given the go-ahead to build a new 115 kilovolt power line between two Fargo substations.

The North Dakota Public Service Commission has given Xcel the green light.

It would be a five-mile line between the Maple River and Red River substations.

"Essentially, the transmission line will provide for increased reliability in the Fargo area," said Commissioner Brian Kroshus. "It should help prevent overloads on neighboring substations."

As wind farms age, companies are working to re-power them – by replacing older turbines with newer, more powerful turbines.

"In some of the older wind facilities, the turbine technology wasn't as good," said North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Brian Kroshus. "In the newer turbines, technology has improved, and they last longer."

"We've already had NextEra talk to our staff pretty extensively about looking at repowering some of their facilities," said Commissioner Julie Fedorchak.

Wind power still 'hot' in ND

Nov 17, 2017
Prairie Public file

North Dakota’s Public Service Commissioners belive there is still a lot of interest in building wind power facilities in North Dakota.

The PSC this week worked on expanding three already-approved wind power projects, and is considering another one.

Commissioner Brian Kroshus said there’s no question it is being driven by the federal production tax credit – which is set to expire soon.

"When we visit with companies, they've indicated the expiring PTCs are playing a part in bringing this wind on line as quickly as they can," Kroshus said.

Oil movement by rail ticked up slightly in Sept.

Nov 17, 2017

Shipments of oil by rail ticked up a little during the month of September.

The oil was shipped to East Coast refineries.

The amount of Bakken crude shipped by rail has been dropping because of pipeline infrastructure – most notably the Dakota Access Pipeline.

North Dakota Pipeline Authority director Justin Kringstad said in September oil companies were dealing with the after affects of hurricanes.

"Hurricane Maria impacted deliveries of oil to the East Coast," Kringstad said. "The PADD 1 refineries are fully geared to handle Bakken crude deliveries by rail."

ND Department of Mineral Resources

Oil production in September ticked up again.

Production that month went back over 1.1 million barrels a day.

"It's been a year and a half since we saw production over 1.1 million barrels a day," said North Dakota Mineral Resources director Lynn Helms in his monthly "Director's Cut" report. "The last time was March of 2016."

But natural gas production dropped slightly, meaning more gas was flared.

"That hasn't happened since November, 2014," Helms said.

Tracie Bettenhausen / Basin Electric

The general manager of Basin Electric Power Cooperative said coal is facing continued challenges in the marketplace.

Paul Sukut said the challenge is coal’s competitiveness – by other sources, such as wind and natural gas.

"Our members made an investment 30 years ago in those coal plants," Sukut said in an interview with Prairie Public. "They still have debt, and they do have economic life. So we're challenges to try and tease as much economic life as we can out of them."

Sukut said in some cases, it may mean temporarily taking coal plants off-line.

The Bakken Gears Up For Its Second Decade

Nov 10, 2017
Amy Sisk / Inside Energy

A decade into North Dakota’s shale fracking boom, the state consistently produces one million barrels of oil per day -- and officials here are looking to boost that number.

North Dakota is the nation’s second-biggest oil producer behind only Texas. This rural state has become a huge player not just on the national oil scene, but globally as well.

The governor here is dreaming even bigger: he wants to double North Dakota’s daily oil production.

Basin Electric Power Cooperative

The General Manager of Basin Electric Power Cooperative calls it an “evolution” for the Great Plains Synfuels Plant near Beulah.

The plant -- which was called the Dakota Coal Gasification plant, was built during a time of a natural gas shortage to convert lignite coal to synthetic natural gas.

Basin GM Paul Sukut said in a few weeks, a new urea fertilizer plant will start operating there.

The plant has been in the works for a few years. And now, Sukut said it’s ready to go.

Oil patch growth creates funding nightmare

Nov 7, 2017
Amy Sisk / Inside Energy

The decade-long shale fracking boom in North Dakota sent the population of oil patch communities soaring. These towns beefed up their public services to accommodate all the newcomers, but this sent their finances plummeting at a time when the price of oil tanked.

Now many oil patch cities are tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. They’re looking for stable funding to pay back their loans while hoping all the new residents choose to stay.

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