The Public Service Commission will hold a hearing next week concerning alleged siting permit violations by the builders of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The hearing will deal with the company clearing more trees and shrubs than authorized.

A second violation concerns a re-route of the pipeline to avoid “culturally significant” areas. The company did the reroute without notifying the PSC. And the Commission has filed a formal complaint about it.

Core library expansion completed, under budget

Aug 8, 2017

The expansion of a special library on the UND campus is now complete.

And it came in under budget.

The library in question is the Wilson M.Laird Core and Sample Library. It’s used by scientists, and by the oil industry.

"When a company drills a well, it is required to the cuttings, the samples as the drill bit grinds through the rocks, which are collected at the surface," said state Geologist Ed Murphy. "And then any core that they take, they are required to give us a representative copy."

Coal Plants Adapt To Follow Demand

Aug 2, 2017
Amy Sisk / Inside Energy

Facing competition from renewables and cheap natural gas, coal-fired power plants are learning they must adjust to survive.

For decades, many coal plants burned coal as fast as their facilities could handle.

"The best way they operate is you turn them on, you run them up as high as you can, and you let them run for days," said Dale Niezwaag, vice president of government relations for Basin Electric Power Cooperative.


Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Some members of the North Dakota Public Service Commission think the state’s energy siting laws may need to be reviewed – after a natural gas processing plant was allowed to undergo a huge expansion.

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

A natural gas plant in McKenzie County will be undergoing a $150 million expansion.

The Public Service Commission has okayed Oasis Midstream’s expansion of its Wild Basin Plant. The plant will go from processing 80 million cubic feet of natural gas per day to processing 280 million cubic feet per day.

The original plant came on line in 2016. Because of that, PSC chairman Randy Christmann said the application raised some questions.

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The CEO of Meridian Energy said a proposed oil refinery to be built near the Bakken will be – as he put it – the “cleanest refinery on this planet.”

The Davis refinery is proposed for a site near Belfield.

"We have taken every bit of technology that's been invented over the last 50 years," said Meridian CEO William Prentice. "As a result, the emissions per 1000 barrels per day will be a fraction of the industry average."

Prentice said work on the Davis Refinery will begin soon after an air quality permit is issued.

Bakken, other shale plays 'recovering' from downturn

Jul 18, 2017
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The program director for the Bakken Conference and Expo – being held in Bismarck this week – said after a few years of being on “pause,” the Bakken – and other shale plays around the country – are rebounding.

"I think there's definitely a sense in the industry that they're more comfortable with where oil prices are and what that means," said Luke Geiver, editor of North American Shale Magazaine. "You hear the term 'cautiously optimistic.' And whether it's in Hobbs, NM, Midland, TX or Watford City, ND, I think that's the term."

Wildfire Poses Risks In Oil Country

Jul 17, 2017
Amy Sisk / Inside Energy

When wildfires break out in oil and gas country, they pose certain risks -- like last week when a fire started up in the badlands of western North Dakota.

The blaze, dubbed the "Magpie Fire," raged through 5,400 acres, much of it in the Dakota Prairie Grasslands.

Medora District Ranger Shannon Boehm with the U.S. Forest Service said when the agency got word a fire had sparked, staff called oil companies operating in the region.

Amy Sisk / Inside Energy

Way up in northern North Dakota lies an old oilfield with a problem 60 years in the making.

It’s noticeable on farmers’ land, like the fields harvested by Clarke Stevens near the small town of Glenburn.

His wheat fields span far across the prairie. In the middle is a 3-acre patch of barren soil.

“We’re always farming around areas like this, and every year they continue to grow,” Stevens said.

This is the site of an old brine pit. Decades ago, trucks took this salty wastewater — produced alongside oil from nearby wells — and dumped it into this pit.

Amy Sisk / Prairie Public

The number of wells producing oil is at an all-time high in North Dakota at 13,876, but this isn’t translating into higher oil output.

The latest numbers released by the state show that oil production in May was above 1 million barrels of oil per day. But it was down just slightly from the month before despite more wells operating.

At his monthly press briefing Friday, mineral resources director Lynn Helms said the reason is two-fold.