Flaring gas wastes natural gas


Regional Editor


The amount of natural gas flaring in North Dakota has been reduced several percent over the past two years but it’s still higher than North Dakota officials would like it to be.

The historical high was 36 percent in September 2011 and the most recent figure is 28 percent, said Lynn Helms, director of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources in Bismarck, in his August “Director’s Report” about the oil and gas development in the state. The 28 percent is a reduction of 1 percent compared to the previous month’s figure.

On Monday, when Gov. Jack Dalrymple spoke at ceremonies at Berthold for Enbridge’s completion of its Bakken Pipeline Expansion Project and the Berthold Rail Facility, along with the launch of its Sandpiper Pipeline Project, he said, “Even though we are very grateful for everything that you have done and all the investments that you have made, I’m going to encourage you right now to do even more.”

He said production continues to increase in the Bakken and there is a tremendous amount of petroleum that needs to be moved.

“We also have a lot of natural gas that is being wasted today in the form of flares, and we are concerned about that and we are working on that constantly,” Dalrymple told an audience gathered under a tent near U.S. Highway 2 near Berthold that day.

“We need solutions to that challenge. We are making progress but we need to make a lot more progress than we have been making,” Dalrymple said.

“That’s why we’re so glad to hear you talk about the opportunity to gather more rich gas in the Bakken fields, to bring that into your main trunk lines through various spurs and the possibility of piping rich gas out of the Bakken and into the eastern markets. We think that’s a great idea and we need great ideas like that to keep making progress on flaring,” he said.

He added that Enbridge’s proposed Sandpiper Pipeline Project is a natural.

The Sandpiper project, an expansion of Enbridge’s existing pipeline, is an approximately 610-mile new crude oil petroleum pipeline starting at Enbridge’s Beaver Lodge Station, south of Tioga, and going east to its terminal in Superior, Wis.

According to North Dakota Pipeline Authority information, “The Bakken/Three Forks Formations produce crude oil and associated natural gas. Flaring of natural gas occurs when natural gas is burned on locations due to a lack of gathering pipeline infrastructure or economic alternatives. Flaring of natural gas is a much safer and more environmentally friendly method of handling the natural gas than simply venting into the atmosphere. By flaring the gas, it converts the methane to carbon dioxide (CO2) which reduces greenhouse gases 25-fold.”

As of June, about 73 percent of the natural gas in North Dakota was being captured and sold. The remainder was being flared due to challenges or constraints on existing gathering systems or flared due to lack of pipeline connection.

Several companies are developing technologies to provide alternatives to natural gas flaring.

“The ultimate goal is to reduce flaring percentages to between 5 and 10 percent over the next decade. The oil and natural gas industries continually make the necessary investments (over $4 billion as of June) and improvements in infrastructure in order to utilize this precious natural resource,” according to the N.D. Pipeline Authority.

Responding to the governor’s comments on Monday regarding natural gas flaring, Steve Wuori, president of Enbridge Liquid Pipelines from Calgary, Alb., said, “The Alliance Pipeline, which we own a 50 percent interest in, is collecting rich gas that’s the natural gas with the ethane, propane, butane mixed in and moving it to a large fractionating plant in Chicago where the gas is sold to the local Chicago utilities and the liquids get sold into the very active market for those products.”

“We really believe in that,” he continued. He said Enbridge is going to continue to pursue that with the Alliance Pipeline and more connections.

“We’re going to keep moving beyond that, and we have some other ideas that we’re also pursuing that will ultimately result in more rich gas being gathered in North Dakota so that we can reduce the amount of flaring that goes on,” Wuori said.