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Hearing set on Williams County natural gas liquids pipeline

Hearing set on Williams County natural gas liquids pipeline

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A public hearing is slated for March 6 in Williston on a proposed natural gas liquids pipeline slated to connect several processing plants in Williams County.

Oneok wants to build the 75-mile line to carry natural gas liquids from the Hess Tioga, XTO Nesson and Flatiron Springbrook plants to another pipeline and, ultimately, to markets farther south in the middle of the country and on the Gulf Coast, the company said in an application to the North Dakota Public Service Commission.

The plants process out various components of raw natural gas, such as ethane, propane and butane, which exist in liquid form under certain temperatures and pressures.

Additional infrastructure, such as this pipeline, to handle natural gas produced alongside oil at well sites in the Bakken “is critical to the overall gas capture picture,” said Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority.

The oil and gas industry is capturing only 83% of the gas produced in North Dakota, meaning the rest is flared at well sites. The state is not meeting its 88% gas capture goal, though state regulators say they anticipate that could soon change now that several new processing plants and another Oneok pipeline known as “Elk Creek” have started up in recent months. The Elk Creek line can carry up to 240,000 barrels per day of natural gas liquids from the Bakken to Kansas.

Even as processing capacity is added, it seems the amount of gas produced keeps climbing and requires more infrastructure to handle it, Chairman Brian Kroshus said at a PSC meeting Wednesday, where commissioners set the hearing date for the proposed pipeline. The project requires PSC approval.

“They’re chasing a moving target, which does create a challenge, but it’s good to see applications like this coming in,” he said.

The proposed pipeline would transport up to 30,000 barrels per day, starting at the Hess plant in Tioga and running west through Williams County. It would end by connecting to the northern portion of Oneok's existing Bakken NGL Pipeline, company spokesman Brad Borror said. From there, the natural gas liquids could be carried south on either that pipeline or the Elk Creek line to market.

The company said in its application that it plans to use horizontal directional drilling to avoid disturbing waterways by placing the pipe underneath them, including at the Little Muddy River and Beaver Creek.

Oneok is calling the project the “Tioga Lateral Pipeline.” The pipe would be made of steel and follow existing infrastructure for 58% of its length. The company estimates the project will cost $100 million and anticipates completing construction by the end of 2020.

The hearing is slated for 9 a.m. March 6 at the Williston Public Works and Engineering Department, at 1121 5th St. E.

At Wednesday’s PSC meeting, Commissioner Julie Fedorchak said she would eventually like to see petrochemical facilities in North Dakota that make use of natural gas liquids. Various state officials, including Gov. Doug Burgum, have been working over the past year to draw such a facility here that could use ethane, for example, in plastics manufacturing.

“I look forward to one day not just building more pipelines that send these NGLs out of state, but keeping it here for use in another industry,” Fedorchak said. 

Reach Amy R. Sisk at 701-250-8252 or amy.sisk@bismarcktribune.com.

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