A significant expansion announced last week for a new McKenzie County natural gas processing plant aims to reduce gas flaring in the region.

Crestwood Equity Partners proposes to expand the Arrow Bear Den gas processing plant near Watford City, adding another 120 million cubic feet per day of processing capacity.

That’s in addition to phase one of the plant, which just came online last week and added 30 million cubic feet per day of processing capacity.

Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, said he suspects more companies will make similar announcements to keep up with the expected growth in natural gas production.

The state produces 1.9 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas, a figure the North Dakota Pipeline Authority projects will exceed 3 billion cubic feet per day by 2030.

“We’re going to need more plants and more capacity,” Ness said.

Justin Kringstad, director of the Pipeline Authority, said the biggest challenge to capturing gas is understanding how oil and gas wells are going to perform for specific regions and developing gas plants, pipelines and compressor stations that will be adequate to keep pace.

“Having the right size at the right time in the right location is really the key,” Kringstad said.

Most wells that flare in North Dakota are connected to a pipeline, but there’s insufficient capacity in the pipelines or other infrastructure to capture the gas, Kringstad’s analysis shows.

One particularly challenging area is the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, in the heart of the Bakken where flaring was 29 percent in September, according to preliminary figures from the Department of Mineral Resources.

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“The wells on the reservation perform extremely well so they have very high gas-oil ratios, very high volumes,” Kringstad said.

Carson Hood, energy division director for the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, said flaring on the reservation is largely the result of pipelines and other gas infrastructure operating at maximum capacity.

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The tribe requires companies to submit gas capture plans, similar to the state’s policy, and is working with industry to try to address areas where they need more infrastructure or increased capacity, Hood said.

Crestwood’s gas plant, which is about 7 miles southeast of Watford City, will process increasing gas volumes from the reservation, the company said in a news release.

Because of the size of the project, it will require approval by the North Dakota Public Service Commission. The company anticipates construction would begin in March 2018 with the plant fully in service by August 2019, according to the application to the commission. A public hearing date has not been set for the proposal.

Meanwhile, construction is underway on the Oasis Wild Basin gas processing plant to expand from 80 million cubic feet per day to 345 million cubic feet per day. That project also is in McKenzie County, in the core of the Bakken where wells tend to produce more gas.

Kringstad projects North Dakota will have enough natural gas processing plants to process more than 2.3 billion cubic feet per day in 2018, a figure that includes the Oasis expansion.

With oil and gas activity projected to stay relatively strong going into 2018, Kringstad said he anticipates more companies will make investments to gather and process natural gas.

"We’re going to need to add additional processing plants, gathering systems and compressor stations just to keep up with the growth expectations," he said.

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(Reach Amy Dalrymple at 701-250-8267 or Amy.Dalrymple@bismarcktribune.com)