January 25, 2012

Extinguishing the gas flares

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

The bright lights of the burning natural gas flares that make western North Dakota visible from outer space are going to be a little dimmer now that the Garden Creek natural gas processing plant is online.
And the importance of turning that flared natural gas into a valuable commodity didn’t go unnoticed by federal, state and local officials during a commissioning ceremony held by Oneok Partners of Tulsa, Okla. on Friday, Jan. 20
“Thank you for expanding your operations in North Dakota,” stated North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple. “Not only will this plant provide good jobs for North Dakotans, but it will also help us reduce the burning off of this valuable resource. This is what absolutely must happen.”
The Garden Creek Gas Plant, which is located about 10 miles northeast of Watford City, can process 100 million cubic feet of natural gas per day.
Between January and November of last year, according to Dalrymple, North Dakota’s production of natural gas increased 53 percent, to a record 521 million cubic feet per day, which is enough natural gas to heat 1.3 million homes. By the end of 2012, the state’s capacity to process natural gas is expected to reach 1.1 billion cubic feet per day.
“We are making great strides in the capturing and processing of natural gas and ONEOK is playing a significant role in that on-going effort,” stated Dalrymple.
North Dakota currently has 1,000 natural gas flares in western North Dakota that are associated with wells drilled into Bakken and Three Forks oil formations. And according to Lynn Helms, director of the North Dakota Oil & Gas Division, the Garden Creek plant alone is expected to reduce the number of flares by 250 once the plant is operating at full capacity.
According to Terry Spencer, president of Oneok Parnters, the company also has plans to to build two other gas processing plants in Williams County, each capable of processing 100 million cubic feet of natural gas per day, and a 525-mile natural gas liquids pipeline. In all, ONEOK Partners plans to invest more than $1.5 billion to expand its gathering and processing of natural gas in the Williston Basin.
While Spencer acknowledged that the three gas plants will not completely reduce all of the gas flares in western North Dakota, it is a step in the right direction to utilize a resource that is currently being wasted.
“Once these three plants are in operation, 750 of the natural gas flares associated with these 1,000 wells will be shut off,” stated Helms. “But it should be noted that more wells at the tune of nearly 2,000 a year are coming online.”
Brent Sanford, Watford City’s mayor, also praised Oneok not only for choosing to locate the Garden Creek plant near Watford City, but also for their steps to reduce flaring.
“People don’t like to see the flaring,” stated Sanford. “Being able to have the flaring reduced by 25 percent is a big deal.”
U.S. Senator Kent Conrad also praised Oneok Partners for helping reduce the country’s reliance on foreign energy by the construction of the gas plants in western North Dakitoa.
“What this means for our state, our region, and this country is enormous,” stated Conrad. “Just think of how much better we, as a country, are by being able to produce our own energy here rather than spending $800 billion a day for foreign oil.”