Oil wells transfer to new Bakken operators

Oct 10, 2017
Amy Sisk / Prairie Public

North Dakota officials have noticed an uptick in the number of oil wells transferring ownership in the Bakken.

Nearly 700 wells are in the process of being transferred from longtime North Dakota operators to new ones, mineral resources director Lynn Helms said Tuesday in his department’s monthly oil and gas briefing.That number’s unusual given that, recently, only 100 wells were transferred in a typical month.

“Companies have re-evaluated their business model and decided to focus on an area where they’re having greater success,”  Helms said.

Amy Sisk / Prairie Public

State officials have noticed a worrisome trend the past few months in the oil fields on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation: The amount of natural gas that’s flared at oil well sites is rising.

Up until this spring, flaring on the reservation was in line with the rest of North Dakota’s oil patch.

“But beginning in March or April we started to see them fall seriously behind,” said Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms at his monthly press briefing on oil and gas production.

The state Industrial Commission is giving the oil and gas industry another 10 months to meet a goal of capturing 85 percent of the natural gas produced by oil wells.

That means flaring would have to be down to 15 percent.

The original goal was to reach the 85 percent capture by January first. Instead, the new date is November first. The industry had asked for a two year delay. There’s an interim goal of 80 percent on April first. The Commission set an 88 percent goal in 2018 – and at least a 91 percent capture goal in 2020.

Three environmental groups say the state Industrial Commission needs to stick to its policy on reducing the amount of natural gas flaring in the Bakken.

The North Dakota Petroleum Council has asked for a two year delay in meeting the 85 percent gas capture goal set out in Commission policy. The request is based on a slowdown in the industry, and what some operators say are delays in getting their oil wells connected to natural gas gathering systems.

Helms: Oil industry 'hanging in there'

Sep 15, 2015

For his monthly “Director’s Cut” oil and gas production update, state mineral resources director Lynn Helms picks a theme.

This month, the theme is “Hang in There.”

"I'm reminded of that poster from the 1970s, where the poor little frazzled cat is hanging on a rope, and appears to be just hanging on," said Helms.

Helms says that’s his analogy, based on the fundamentals of the oil industry. The report reflects July numbers.

North Dakota oil producers face a new flaring reduction standard January first.

But the state’s top oil regulator says it may be a tough standard to meet – because of unforeseen circumstances.

The new standard says at least 85 percent of the natural gas has to be captured. That limits flaring to 15 percent. But some wells are still waiting to be connected to gas gathering lines – and companies have been asking for flaring rule exemptions because of that.

Oil company receives 6-month flaring exemption

Jul 1, 2015

The state Industrial Commission has approved a six month natural gas flaring exemption for an oil company – due to that company’s inability to get some wells connected to a gas gathering pipeline.

It affects several wells in Dunn County.

State mineral resources director Lynn Helms says OneOK – a natural gas processing company – has been unable to get a pipeline easement on a tract of land on the Fort Berthold Reservation.

"It's a very significant pipeline," said Helms. "It would carry 40 million cubic feet a day."

Bill on flaring changed by Senate

Feb 17, 2015

A bill about the flaring of natural gas has been changed – and its sponsor is not happy about it.

Sen. Connie Triplett’s (D-Grand Forks) bill would have required that the operator of an oil well that flares natural gas has to start paying royalties on that gas after the well has been in production 14 days.  But the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee changed the bill, adopting what in Legislative parlance is called a “hog-house amendment.”

$4 billion plant proposed for ND

Oct 14, 2014
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

A plant is being proposed for North Dakota to take ethane from the Williston Basin oil fields and convert it to polyethylene.

"That's the building block for most plastics," Gov. Jack Dalrymple said at a Bismarck news conference. A company called Badlands NGL is planning to spend around $4 billion on the plant – making it the largest private equity investment in North Dakota history.

State mineral resources director Lynn Helms says it appears to him that the oil industry is taking the issue of reducing natural gas flaring seriously.

Last year, flaring was as high as 36 percent.

Helms says last year at this time, Gov. Jack Dalrymple told the industry that it had to fix this.

"Here we are, a year later, with rules in place, an order in place and gas capture plans in place,"" said Helms. "We were at 36 percent last year. Now we're at 26 percent."