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Discussions underway on making the Northern Border natural gas pipeline 100% North Dakota gas

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Discussions are underway about having the Northern Border natural gas pipeline carry only North Dakota-produced gas.

Right now, the pipeline carries some Canadian gas.

But it's not that way.

"If we're going to take over 100 percent of the capacity of the Northern Border pipeline, and make it a North Dakota natural gas export pipeline, we're going to have to de-ethanize our gas," said North Dakota Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms.

That would mean taking the "ethane" out of the gas.

"The natural gas pipeline want "methane," Helms said. "And what comes out of the processing contains ethane, which makes the BTU too high," Helms said.

Helms said the people who burn the gas can't handle it. So he said the ethane has to be taken out.

"That would meet the specs, and would make the customers at the far end -- in Chicago and that area -- happy," Helms said.

Helms said there have been a number of suggestions on what to do with the ethane – including petrochemical production, and power generation.

"It is possible to build an electric power facility that burns ethane," Helms said. "But there are other uses for it, including all those things that come from ethane, such as PVC pipe and ethylene glycol."

Helms said there are a lot of great opportunities to keep the ethane here, and turn it into high value products -- which would add a lot of jobs.

And he said the potential is definitely there.

"We're in the top three or so in terms of potential locations," Helms said. "But how are we going to compete with the other two top locations? We will be looking at incentives, to help bring the industry to the state -- helping with the capture of ethane."

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