Identifying solutions

BISMARCK The state’s Mineral Resources Department is in the process of reviewing recommendations from an oil industry task force for significantly reducing gas flaring in the state.

The task force presented its recommendations to the North Dakota Industrial Commission in Bismarck Jan. 29.

“The department is reviewing the entire recommendations to see how it could or can be implemented. We have a deadline of March 3 to present to the commission,” said Alison Ritter, public information officer for the N.D. Department of Mineral Resources in Bismarck.

With the increase of oil drilling in western North Dakota in the past several years, flaring gas is an issue in the state.

Marcus Stewart, an energy analyst with Bentek Energy in Denver, said Wednesday that currently, about $1.2 million to $1.3 million of natural gas a day is being thrown away by flaring or burning it off. Stewart tracks the amount of gas that is flared.

The N.D. Petroleum Council members formed the Flaring Task Force last fall to examine flaring and identify solutions to significantly reduce natural gas flaring in the state’s oil fields.

Prior to the presentation in January, the Flaring Task Force and its committees met via conference call, said Tessa Sandstrom, communications manager for the N.D. Petroleum Council in Bismarck.

The Flaring Task Force gave recommendations to the Industrial Commission that the oil industry can increase natural gas capture to 85 percent within two years, 90 percent capture in six years, and could capture up to 95 percent of gas with full engagement from the Industrial Commission, state agencies, N.D. Legislature, Three Affiliated Tribes, landowners and oil and gas companies, according to petroleum council information.

“The task force outlined how these capture targets can be met and presented self-prescribed practices the industry will implement to increase transparency and accountability when developing the state’s natural resources. These reductions are forecasted primarily to come from a combination of enhanced construction of both gathering pipelines and natural gas processing plants along with implementation of the operational recommendations from the task force,” a news release said.

Mandatory gas capture plans from oil and gas producers before they file for a permit, creating a pipeline issue hotline and creating a system for midstream planning are among the recommendations.

The task force also recommended

forming a right-of-way task force to review legislation to improve ROW access to reduce flaring. The task force, headed up by the attorney general, would include the North Dakota Pipeline Authority, the state energy impact coordinator, county leaders, landowner groups and industry members.

Also, capturing 90 percent of natural gas or more would be incumbent upon meaningful solutions to resolve ROW issues and challenges on the Fort Berthold Reservation, according to a N.D. Petroleum Council information.

“We have received a significant amount of interest from landowners and landower groups who are interested in working together on the suggested ROW Task Force and are very pleased about that,” Sandstrom said.

“The industry continues to move forward in building out the gathering systems as quickly as possible to help get more trucks off the roads and bring us closer to our gas capture goals outlined in the presentation,” she added.

The percentage of gas flared in the state’s oil patch, according to the November 2013 figures, the most recent ones available, was 2 percent to 30 percent, largely due to the temporary shutdown of the Tioga Gas Plant, said Lynn Helms, director of the N.D. Department of Mineral Resources in his January report of the oil and gas industry.

The Tioga facility shut down Nov. 25, 2013, for an expansion into its new plant. Current information was not available from Hess but its website reported in its 2013 fourth quarter report that the company’s Bakken infrastructure investments in 2013 “included the Tioga gas plant expansion project, which is expected to be completed and operational in the first quarter of 2014.”

The percentage of gas flared was down 1 percent to 28 percent, according to October statistics reported in December 2013.

Ritter said 28 percent was the lowest flaring has been in a few years.

The historical high for flaring was 36 percent in September 2011, Helms said.

A complete list of task force recommendations presented to the N.D. Industrial Commission last month can be found at the N.D. Petroleum Council’s website at (