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Industrial Commission OKs enhanced oil recovery project, looks at sulfur capture

Dave Thompson
Prairie Public

The state Industrial Commission has given its okay to a pilot enhanced oil recovery project in Mountrail County.

The project would use natural gas.

Hess Corporation would be involved in an oil field near Ross.

State mineral resources director Lynn Helms told the Commission Hess was involved in an earlier pilot – that failed because of a lack of natural gas. He said Hess will also be injecting a foam along with the gas.

"They think by doing that, they will be able to build pressure more rapidly, and force gas into these very small pore spaces in the Bakken, actually contain it, and get the enhanced oil recovery benefit," Helms said. He also said this is a great project.

"We need to get enhanced oil recovery figured out in the Bakken," Helms said. "That alone would take care of the flaring issue. And just as importantly, we could increase the recovery factor for the Bakken."

It will be a two-year pilot.


An issue with hydrogen sulfide in some natural gas produced by North Dakota wells could lead to a value-added product for agriculture.

About a dozen wells owned by Enerplus Resources in Dunn County were found to have H2S.

"They got kicked out of the gathering system," Helms said.

Helms said the midstream companies don’t want hydrogen sulfide. He told the Industrial Commission Enerplus bought sulfur treatment equipment to install on the wells. Helms said for a two-year test period. the company will be allowed to flare the gas when the equipment needs repair.

It also raises the possibility the captured sulfur can be used by farmers. Helms said gas plants are losing $50 a ton, if they capture the sulfur – but at the same time, it’s expensive for farmers to purchase sulfur.

"One of the things we're going to be asking Enerplus is -- the liquid you use to remove the H2S -- rather than dispose of it, might we be able to turn that into an ag input?" Helms said. "Could we move it to a place where we actually need sulfur in the soil, and actually use it?"

The Industrial Commission supported the two-year trial – with the provision that research be done on the capture and use of sulfur.

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