Helms: 2017 'getting better' for oil

May 26, 2016
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

North Dakota Mineral Resources director Lynn Helms says the oil industry consensus is – 2017 will be a better year for the industry.

But Helms says it won’t be robust.

"Still less than 50 drilling rigs (in the Bakken)."

Helms says by 2018, the industry will likely start adding drilling rigs back to North Dakota.

"By 2019 and 2020, it should be back to the races."

And that means production will grow.

When it comes to energy, presidential candidate Donald Trump has left a lot to the imagination. But today he’s traveling to Bismarck to address energy industry professionals from all across the country. North Dakota is the second largest oil producing state in the U.S (TK).  There’s many issues troubling the industry right now, from low energy prices to new federal regulations. Inside Energy’s Leigh Paterson reports.

Outside the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Bismarck, a table is covered in swag. 

“Grab a couple. Take more than one!”

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Not a record turnout – but organizers of the 2016 Williston Basin Petroleum Conference say they’re happy.

"We just reached 2500 registrants," North Dakota Petroleum Council president Ron Ness announced at the conference's opening news briefing at the Bismarck Events Center. "We were planning for about 1800 a few months ago."

Ness says he also expects a number of on-site registrations.

"You put that on top of the roughly 4500 general public tickets we've sold for (Donald) Trump, and it's going to be a busy place," Ness said.

Two Governor candidates are calling for an outside audit of the state Mineral Resources Department.

Republican Paul Sorum and Democrat Marvin Nelson say they are concerned some mineral owners aren’t making what they should in terms of oil and gas royalties. Nelson says he’s heard from mineral owners who get their royalty checks – only to be followed up by a second check – or a notice of overpayment.

March oil production dropped in North Dakota.

But the state’s director of mineral resources says it wasn’t as bad as he first thought.

In March, the state produced just over 1.1 million barrels a day. That’s down about 10,000 barrels from February. But mineral resources director Lynn Helms thought it would be worse.

Highway 22 road trip

May 12, 2016

Dickinson, North Dakota is a very different place than it was two years ago, when this oilfield town of less than 30,000 people was one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Since then, the price of oil has fallen by more than 50 percent. Nowhere are signs of the slowdown more visible than along Dickinson’s Highway 22. I decided to take a road trip to see what had changed along oil bust alley.

Over the past few weeks, there have been a number of extended power outages in Fargo.

Xcel Energy says there were a number of factors. One was the failure of some underground lines. Second, some tree limbs took out overhead lines. And third was due to a squirrel. In addition, technology to switch from a downed trunk line to a live line didn’t work because of battery failure.

Xcel’s Mark Nisbet told the Public Service Commission there are plans to replace some of the underground line.

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

With the Clean Power Plan stayed – and the matter still in the courts – states in our region are taking different approaches on whether they will continue working on state implementation plans.

Frank Kohlasch is the air assessment section manager for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. He told  the Lignite Energy Council annual meeting in Bismarck – Minnesota is going ahead with its planning process.

The first wind farm hasn’t yet been built – but the developers of the Brady wind farm in Stark and Hettinger counties have proposed a second wind farm for that same area.

Brady II would be 150 megawatts. It would have up to 72 turbines.

The North Dakota Public Service Commission is requiring the developer to submit the proposed locations for the wind turbines at least 30 days before the public hearing.

Drilling activity may have slowed in the Williston Basin.

But so-called “mid-stream” companies are still busy, planning and building pipelines, natural gas processing plants and other infrastructure.

"The midstream industry is a long-term industry," said North Dakota Pipeline Authority director Justin Kringstad. "It has a long term vision of these projects. They're looking at the oil play with a five, 10, 15, 20-plus play in mind."

Kringstad said with current oil prices low, one might think the mid-stream companies may be a little hesitant.