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North Dakota’s Industrial Commission has made some tweaks to its natural gas capture policy, while keeping the benchmarks for gas capture in place.

The current policy requires companies to capture 88 percent of the gas produced. That rises to 91 percent by November first.

The policy amends the definition of “stranded gas,” and clarifies how the percentage of gas captured is calculated where variances are applied, and it expands when requests for variances would require public notice and a hearing.

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

North Dakota Mineral Resource director Lynn Helms believes the state will soon meet the Industrial Commission’s goals for natural gas capture.

The goal was to capture 88 percent of the gas, starting last November. But as of December, the rate was only 84 percent.

In his recent "Director's Cut" briefing, which covered December production, Helms said he is optimistic that the 88 percent capture goal will be met – and it’s possible that may have happened in January.

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.

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The North Dakota Industrial Commission has approved some amendments to its Guidance Policy on gas capture.

The changes will give industry some flexibility, based on the availability of gas processing plants and pipeline technology. But for now, the Commission has not changed the gas capture goals' timing – pending further work.

More natural gas processing plants are coming on-line in the Bakken.

State pipeline authority director Justin Kringstad said two are being completed this year, and four others are scheduled next year.

"The two plants in 2018 are scheduled to come on-line in the September-October time frame," Kringstad said. "They will add 400 million cubic feet (mcf) of gas processing."

Kringstad said the total investment in those two facilities is $300 million.

Natural gas flaring on Ft. Berthold remains an issue

Feb 16, 2018
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The flaring of natural gas in North Dakota dropped to 13 percent in December.

In November, that figure was 14 percent.

The highest amount of flaring comes from wells on the Fort Berthold Reservation, where 20 percent of gas was flared.

The state has an overall goal of reducing flaring to 12 percent by November. But state mineral resources director Lynn Helms said that may be tough to do. He said the one big impediment is securing rights-of-way on Bureau of Indian Affairs controlled land for new natural gas gathering pipelines.

Industrial Commission denies flaring exemption

Jan 25, 2018
Dave Thompson

The North Dakota Industrial Commission has turned down an oil company’s request for relief from the state’s natural gas flaring restrictions.

Marathon Oil had asked for the exemptions for a number of wells on or near the Fort Berthold Reservation. State mineral resources director Lynn Helms told the Commission Marathon asked for it due to “operational constraints and system design limitations.”

"The pipes are too small," Helms told the Commission. He recommended the Commission deny the request.

"This is exactly counter to your gas capture policy," Helms said.

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.