North Dakota studies to explore natural gas, electric growthNorth Dakota’s Industrial Commission agreed Monday to help pay for studies on how to meet the ravenous electricity needs of the state’s oil industry and the pipeline network required to handle its burgeoning natural gas production.
By: By Dale Wetzel, Associated Press, The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — North Dakota’s Industrial Commission agreed Monday to help pay for studies on how to meet the ravenous electricity needs of the state’s oil industry and the pipeline network required to handle its burgeoning natural gas production.
The power study will estimate growth in electricity demand, explore where new or improved transmission lines are needed, and suggest whether utilities should develop additional electricity sources, said Sandi Tabor, director of the state Transmission Authority.
The Industrial Commission voted unanimously to provide $100,000 for the study, which will be done by Kadrmas, Lee & Jackson, a Bismarck engineering firm.
It will cost almost $284,000. Montana-Dakota Utilities Co., which serves Williston, Dickinson and other cities in western North Dakota, and Basin Electric Power Cooperative, which supplies electricity to rural electric cooperatives in the region, will provide most of the remainder, Tabor said.
Aside from oil industry worries about whether the state’s electric grid can supply the rapidly expanding industry, Basin and Montana-Dakota Utilities are concerned about serving the influx of people arriving to work in the oil fields, she said. The study should be completed by September.
“There’s growing concerns that the (transmission) infrastructure in western North Dakota ... may not be sufficient to meet this amazingly increasing demand in electricity,” Tabor said.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple is chairman of the Industrial Commission, which oversees the state’s oil and gas regulation. Its other members are Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.
North Dakota’s oil production has almost quintupled in the past five years. The state, which pumps about 550,000 barrels of crude daily, is now the nation’s third-leading oil producer, behind Texas and Alaska.
As oil production grows, so has the state’s output of natural gas. In a separate vote Monday, the Industrial Commission approved spending $120,000 to hire Bentek Energy, a consultancy based in Evergreen, Colo., to analyze the state’s likely future natural gas production, and suggest expansions or improvements to its existing pipeline network.
The state Department of Mineral Resources says more than 30 percent of North Dakota’s natural gas output is burned off and wasted because the development of pipelines and processing plants has lagged production growth.
Justin Kringstad, director of the state Pipeline Authority, said the study should provide guidance for energy companies about the sort of transportation network needed to handle rising volumes of gas in the next 10 years or more. It should be finished by mid-July.
Kringstad said the consultants would review the production expectations of North Dakota natural gas wells, and how much less gas a well is likely to produce as it ages.
“The knowledge that we have in North Dakota right now on our gas is very limited,” Kringstad said. “It’s still a very young (development).”