No one solution will bring natural gas flaring down to an acceptable level in western North Dakota. It will take a bundle of different strategies, large and small, to get flaring into single-digit percentages.
And, the flaring needs to be reduced from its present level of 29 percent of production. That level of flaring, or higher, has been ongoing since the beginning of the Bakken boom.
Adding pipelines, to gather or ship natural gas, are big solutions. That work is ongoing, but takes a great deal of time.
Two local companies, Blaise Energy and Bakken Frontier, offer innovative, smaller-scale technologies on the short term to well drillers and producers that can help reduce the need to burn off natural gas at the well site. The Tribune looked at the two companies and their methods in a Sunday Money story over the weekend.
“When I saw the huge waste of values and high pollution due to NGLs in the flares, I recognized opportunity,” said John Simmons of Carbontech, the parent company of Bakken Frontier. The problem of flaring is creating business intent on solving it.
Bakken Frontier installs and leases a natural gas liquids gathering system called Vortex, which separates high-value by-products from the gas at the well head -- propane, butane and natural gasoline. That can then be hauled, or piped, to a processing plant and shipped. It reduces flaring at a particular well by about 40 percent.
Blaise Energy builds and leases generators that burn natural gas, which can in turn power operations at the well pad, replacing diesel-fuel generators or the need to string power lines to isolated locations. Again, that uses natural gas and reduces flaring in a profitable way.
The efforts of Bakken Frontier and Blaise Energy are growing. And their success will breed more success with others who want to take advantage of the demand for solutions to flaring.
The state has encouraged small-business solutions to flaring and the development of gas plants and pipeline assets, both in terms of gathering natural gas from well sites and moving it to market. Wells, however, continue to go in faster than the gas can be captured and productively used.
In an effort to meet the flaring challenge, a task force has begun meeting to develop an overall plan to the state. The group was formed at the direction of the North Dakota Industrial Commission and expects to develop an action plan in the next three months. Expect big and small solutions to be represented in the task force’s final report.