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.

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The North Dakota Public Service Commission hasn’t yet had a chance to look at Otter Tail Power Company’s proposed electric rate increase.

It would be its first increase in 10 years. And the paperwork was filed this week.

"They're looking for $13.1 million," Commissioner Brian Kroshus said. "That would be an 8.7% increase. It's definitely a sizable request."

The utility said it means an average residential customer would see their monthly bills go up by $11.50. For business customers, the increase would be about $22 a month.

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The North Dakota Public Service Commission has given its okay to Otter Tail Power for a North Dakota wind farm and a South Dakota Natural Gas power plant.

The two will replace an aging coal plant in Fergus Falls.

The natural gas plant will be built near Astoria, South Dakota – and the Merricourt Wind Farm will be built near Ashley.

"This is replacing the Hoot Lake facility in Fergus Falls (MN)," said Commissioner Brian Kroshus. "That plant, I believe, will be decommissioned in 2021."

ND Department of Mineral Resources

An oil company wants to try a new technique for enhanced oil recovery.

Liberty Resources will try it in a field near Tioga.

"They want to test what we traditionally would call a 'huff-and-puff' operation," State Mineral Resources director Lynn Helms told the North Dakota Industrial Commission.

The operation involves the injection of field-produced gas, with added hydrocarbons such as ethane or propane.

Natural Gas pipeline expansion project 'on track'

Oct 30, 2017

MDU Resources Group says it is making progress on its project to build a natural gas pipeline from the existing pipeline system near Mapleton to the Viking Gas Transmission Company pipeline near Felton, Minnesota.

It would be a 38 mile, 16-inch diameter pipeline.

"It's been demand-driven from the start," said MDU Resources spokesman Tony Spilde. "We're getting requests for more natural gas on the system."

Spilde said this project is going to enhance reliability for local distribution companies, from Bismarck to the Viking system near Felton.

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

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.

Less oil moving by rail from the Bakken

Oct 25, 2017
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

As the number of barrels of Bakken crude oil shipped by pipeline increases, the number of rail loading facilities in western North Dakota has dropped.

"During the height of the crude by rail activity in North Dakota, we had north of 20 rail loading facilities scattered throughout North Dakota," said North Dakota Pipeline Authority director Justin Kringstad. "now it's consolidated to around 12 facilities that are still loading crude oil, primarily on trains headed to the west coast, and some to the east coast."

North Dakota’s coal regulatory and abandoned mine land programs have received high marks from the federal Office of Surface Mining.

The reports come from the year that ended June 30th.

The programs are under the Public Service Commission. Commission chairman Randy Christmann said the reports show North Dakota has a cost-effective program that doesn’t need any corrective action.