Natural gas flaring ticks upward

Jul 18, 2016

State mineral resources director Lynn Helms at his "Director's Cut" monthly briefing.
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The flaring of natural gas spiked upward in May.

It’s back up to 11-and-a-half percent.

"There are a couple of reasons," said State Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms. "Natural gas production went up, and there was no additional processing or gathering capacity ready to take that up."

Production rose to 1,643,522 MCF per day, from April's 1,616,769 MCF per day.

Helms said the Hess Tioga gas plant ran only at 74 percent of capacity. He said that’s because of a delay in a project that would bring natural gas from south of Lake Sakakawea to that plant.

"They (Hess) had been counting on the river crossing under Lake Sakakwea, in order to bring that plant up to full capacity," Helms said. "It has just been continuously delayed, and delayed, and delayed."

Helms said Hess is awaiting federal approvals for that. But he said it looks like the approvals will come later this year.

Helms also said three new gas plants should be coming on-line shortly.

Meanwhile, this summer, natural gas prices have increased. That’s because more utilities are using the gas to generate electricity. And it is the summer air conditioning season.

The norm used to be – natural gas prices would go up in winter, for heating, and down in summer.

Helms said this summer, prices went up – and storage went down. And he said that bodes well for the development of natural gas processing plants in North Dakota.

"About that same time is when Liberty Resources looked at the economics, and saw it was truly economic for them to go ahead and build their own plant," Helms said. "It's going to help us tremendously in sustaining this build-out of natural gas processing to have those high summer gas prices."

The prices are up 50 cents per MCF.