Wind power still 'hot' in ND

Nov 17, 2017
Prairie Public file

North Dakota’s Public Service Commissioners belive there is still a lot of interest in building wind power facilities in North Dakota.

The PSC this week worked on expanding three already-approved wind power projects, and is considering another one.

Commissioner Brian Kroshus said there’s no question it is being driven by the federal production tax credit – which is set to expire soon.

"When we visit with companies, they've indicated the expiring PTCs are playing a part in bringing this wind on line as quickly as they can," Kroshus said.

Oil movement by rail ticked up slightly in Sept.

Nov 17, 2017

Shipments of oil by rail ticked up a little during the month of September.

The oil was shipped to East Coast refineries.

The amount of Bakken crude shipped by rail has been dropping because of pipeline infrastructure – most notably the Dakota Access Pipeline.

North Dakota Pipeline Authority director Justin Kringstad said in September oil companies were dealing with the after affects of hurricanes.

"Hurricane Maria impacted deliveries of oil to the East Coast," Kringstad said. "The PADD 1 refineries are fully geared to handle Bakken crude deliveries by rail."

ND Department of Mineral Resources

Oil production in September ticked up again.

Production that month went back over 1.1 million barrels a day.

"It's been a year and a half since we saw production over 1.1 million barrels a day," said North Dakota Mineral Resources director Lynn Helms in his monthly "Director's Cut" report. "The last time was March of 2016."

But natural gas production dropped slightly, meaning more gas was flared.

"That hasn't happened since November, 2014," Helms said.

Tracie Bettenhausen / Basin Electric

The general manager of Basin Electric Power Cooperative said coal is facing continued challenges in the marketplace.

Paul Sukut said the challenge is coal’s competitiveness – by other sources, such as wind and natural gas.

"Our members made an investment 30 years ago in those coal plants," Sukut said in an interview with Prairie Public. "They still have debt, and they do have economic life. So we're challenges to try and tease as much economic life as we can out of them."

Sukut said in some cases, it may mean temporarily taking coal plants off-line.

The Bakken Gears Up For Its Second Decade

Nov 10, 2017
Amy Sisk / Inside Energy

A decade into North Dakota’s shale fracking boom, the state consistently produces one million barrels of oil per day -- and officials here are looking to boost that number.

North Dakota is the nation’s second-biggest oil producer behind only Texas. This rural state has become a huge player not just on the national oil scene, but globally as well.

The governor here is dreaming even bigger: he wants to double North Dakota’s daily oil production.

Basin Electric Power Cooperative

The General Manager of Basin Electric Power Cooperative calls it an “evolution” for the Great Plains Synfuels Plant near Beulah.

The plant -- which was called the Dakota Coal Gasification plant, was built during a time of a natural gas shortage to convert lignite coal to synthetic natural gas.

Basin GM Paul Sukut said in a few weeks, a new urea fertilizer plant will start operating there.

The plant has been in the works for a few years. And now, Sukut said it’s ready to go.

Oil patch growth creates funding nightmare

Nov 7, 2017
Amy Sisk / Inside Energy

The decade-long shale fracking boom in North Dakota sent the population of oil patch communities soaring. These towns beefed up their public services to accommodate all the newcomers, but this sent their finances plummeting at a time when the price of oil tanked.

Now many oil patch cities are tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. They’re looking for stable funding to pay back their loans while hoping all the new residents choose to stay.

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The North Dakota Public Service Commission hasn’t yet had a chance to look at Otter Tail Power Company’s proposed electric rate increase.

It would be its first increase in 10 years. And the paperwork was filed this week.

"They're looking for $13.1 million," Commissioner Brian Kroshus said. "That would be an 8.7% increase. It's definitely a sizable request."

The utility said it means an average residential customer would see their monthly bills go up by $11.50. For business customers, the increase would be about $22 a month.

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The North Dakota Public Service Commission has given its okay to Otter Tail Power for a North Dakota wind farm and a South Dakota Natural Gas power plant.

The two will replace an aging coal plant in Fergus Falls.

The natural gas plant will be built near Astoria, South Dakota – and the Merricourt Wind Farm will be built near Ashley.

"This is replacing the Hoot Lake facility in Fergus Falls (MN)," said Commissioner Brian Kroshus. "That plant, I believe, will be decommissioned in 2021."

ND Department of Mineral Resources

An oil company wants to try a new technique for enhanced oil recovery.

Liberty Resources will try it in a field near Tioga.

"They want to test what we traditionally would call a 'huff-and-puff' operation," State Mineral Resources director Lynn Helms told the North Dakota Industrial Commission.

The operation involves the injection of field-produced gas, with added hydrocarbons such as ethane or propane.