Resurfacing work on Highway 85 south of Watford City that includes a flagger and pilot car has produced lengthy truck parades on the busy two-lane highway the past couple weeks.
New Plant Owner To Pursue CO2 Capture
It's a welcome relief to every North Dakotan living in Coal Country. It was announced this week that Coal Creek Station will be purchased by Rainbow Energy Center, which will continue to operate the 1,151-megawatt power plant.
Rainbow has reached an agreement to purchase Coal Creek from Great River Energy and plans to run the plant using current employees it will hire. An affiliate company, Nexus Line, LLC, will purchase the high voltage direct current transmission line that runs more than 400 miles from the plant to the Twin Cities area. The purchase of the plant and DC line are expected to close later this year.
The pending sale was welcome news for residents of McLean County and the region, following the announcement last year that GRE planned to shut down Coal Creek Station by the end of 2022. Rainbow will focus on delivering baseload energy from Coal Creek and plans to develop a system to capture its carbon dioxide emissions.
“Carbon capture and storage is vital to continued operation of Coal Creek Station and will be an important step toward Governor Burgum’s goal for the state to reach carbon neutrality by 2030 (see May 14 newsletter),” said Stacy Tschider, President of Rainbow Energy Marketing. “We are committed to providing competitive and reliable power to consumers ... and are uniquely positioned to actively pursue customers that purchase power on the open market."
The sale of Coal Creek Station preserves hundreds of jobs in nearby communities, including jobs at the Falkirk Mine, which supplies coal to the plant. State political leaders celebrated the news. Governor Doug Burgum said he couldn't be happier for the employees whose jobs have been saved.
“This is a great day for North Dakota, a big win for U.S. energy security and reliability, and a huge sigh of relief for the residents of McLean County, Underwood and surrounding communities in coal country who depend on the jobs and economic activity generated by Coal Creek and the nearby Falkirk Mine,” Burgum said. “It’s also great news for the regional power grid and consumers who depend on the reliable, affordable electricity that coal provides.”
Lt. Governor Brent Sanford, who has played an active role in the negotiations, said the long hours and numerous discussions were well worth it.
“It seems fitting that as the dark cloud of uncertainty over Coal Creek is lifted today, a Rainbow has appeared to take its place,” Sanford said. “This sale is the tremendously positive outcome of months of negotiations and tireless efforts to find a solution that benefits consumers, Coal Country workers and the entire state of North Dakota."
Congressman Kelly Armstrong, in an interview with Rob Port on the radio program Plain Talk, said the announcement was great news for communities throughout central North Dakota.
Click here to listen to Armstrong's comments.
Senator Kevin Cramer said the agreement to keep the plant in operation is a great example of what North Dakota entrepreneurs and innovators can accomplish.
Click here to listen to Cramer's comments.
The 2021 North Dakota Legislature enacted several bills that helped make the deal possible. The list includes:
HB 1412, which exempts coal plants from the state’s coal conversion facility tax for the next five years, saving the industry more than $20 million per year.
SB 2152, which provides a sales tax exemption for carbon dioxide used for geologic storage.
SB 2206, which allows utilities to recover costs for capturing carbon dioxide.
Click here to read a Bismarck Tribune article about the deal.
Two Landfills to Handle Oil Industry Waste
North Dakota's oil industry may soon have a couple more options for disposing of low-level radioactive material it produces thanks to this week's approval by the Williams County Commission of two applications to allow its disposal in a landfill.
The county approved conditional use permits for applicants Secure Energy and WISCO Inc. to allow disposal of TENORM (Technologically-Enhanced Naturally-Occurring Radioactive Material) at their existing landfills. Secure's facility is 14 miles north of Williston, and WISCO's landfill is about 15 miles west of Williston near the Montana border.
The county's action comes about 18 months after it enacted a moratorium on TENORM applications to allow time to study the issue. Both companies will still need to obtain radioactive material handling licenses from the ND Department of Environmental Quality before they can begin disposal operations. Both facilities already receive the material for processing and analysis onsite, but most TENORM is now trucked to a landfill in Montana.
During a nearly four-hour meeting Tuesday morning, the commission heard from both companies, as well as other industry representatives and neighboring landowners. Kurt Rhea, CEO of Radiation Pros, which provides consulting services to Secure Energy, explained to the commission that the low-level alpha and beta radiation emitted by TENORM only travels a matter of inches or feet.
Click here to listen to Rhea's comments.
Williston Representative David Richter said a legislative committee had looked into the issue primarily because Montana has tightened its TENORM regulations, and there was concern the state could one day stop accepting the material from North Dakota.
Click here to listen to Richter's comments.
Richter said the legislative committee has no desire to take over responsibility for local landfills. But that is something that concerned Commissioner David Montgomery,
Click here to listen to Montgomery's comments.
The commission also heard from Keith Norbeck, whose company KT Enterprises operates a slurry disposal well in McKenzie County that injects TENORM into underground formations. It's one more option for the industry to consider, but Commission Chairman Steve Kemp said ultimately the market will determine the best way to manage TENORM disposal.
Click here to listen to Kemp's comments.
Commissioner Beau Anderson, who lives adjacent to WISCO's landfill, voted against both applications. Anderson said he had not heard many favorable comments from local residents.
Click here to listen to Anderson's comments.
Anderson was joined in his opposition to WISCO's application by Commissioner Barry Ramgerg, who said his vote was based on the recommendation to deny from Round Prairie Township where the landfill is located. The WISCO application was approved on a 3-2 vote. Ramberg supported Secure's application which passed on a 4-1 vote.
Commissioner Montgomery, who made the motion to approve WISCO's application which was the first to be considered, said the county commission had learned a lot since it enacted the moratorium, and it was time to address the issue.
Click here to listen to Montgomery's comments.
Secure has resubmitted its application to DEQ for a radioactive materials license, and WISCO intends to file next week. They will be reviewed by DEQ staff, to be followed by a public comment period. Action on the permits by DEQ could occur late this summer or early fall.
Click here to watch video of the June 29 county commission meeting. Discussion of the TENORM applications begins at the 35:00 mark. Click here to read Renée Jean's article about the county's approval in the Williston Herald.
Work May Improve Frost Law Policy
Research Effort Part of Wise Roads Project
There has to be a very good reason to dig into the side of a perfectly good gravel road in McKenzie County and there is. The data provided by moisture and temperature probes that were embedded in the road surface could lead to improvements in frost law policies.
Every spring counties impose seasonal weight restrictions on gravel roads which soften up as the soil warms and frost comes out of the ground. The frost law restrictions are frustrating to oil industry trucking interests, which generally have to restrict loads to no more than six tons per axle. But information gleaned from research may help counties better determine when its safe to allow heavier loads to move on gravel roads.
Four moisture and temperature probes were installed this week in County Road 36 about eight miles northeast of Watford City at the Banks NDAWN/Wise Roads weather station. The probes were placed at depths of eight, 24, 48 and 72 inches, with the eight-inch probe being placed at the transition between the surface layer and the clay base. The probes were installed between the outside wheel track and the center wheel track.
Temperature data will be used to measure frost depth and determine frost load restrictions. Moisture data will be used to measure water infiltration in the road during and after rainfall. This data, combined with rain intensity and totals from the adjacent weather station, will help better determine when load restrictions are necessary after rain events.
The McKenzie County Roads Department provided a backhoe and operators to dig the trench from the station into the road. This is the third Wise Roads road probe installation. The other sites are the Epping Station in Williams County, about two miles southeast of Epping, and Medicine Hole located northwest of Killdeer in Dunn County. A fourth road probe installation will occur later this summer at the Rat Lake station in Mountrail County.
To date, WDEA's Wise Roads project has installed 37 new weather stations in the Bakken region over the past two years. Several more stations will be installed this summer. Four of the new stations are located on or adjacent to well pads and are connected to AC power. The stations are equipped with snow melters, and will be able to record winter precipitation and have cameras in operation 24/7.
Click here to access data and photographs from the Wise Roads stations.
Conditions Will Likely Get Worse
The shades of color on the drought monitor map are deepening as summer arrives in North Dakota, indicating worsening drought conditions and growing concerns about the state's agriculture sector.
No improvement to “exceptional” drought conditions is expected in the short-range weather outlook, according to the latest assessment of the U.S. Drought Monitor. Conditions are the worst in central and north-central parts of the state. Minot, for example, has recorded just 2.28 inches of precipitation the entire year, barely one-fourth of its seasonal average of 8.64 inches.
The entire state is experiencing some measure of drought, with nearly 18 percent of the land mass falling into the "exceptional" category, and more than 60 percent experiencing extreme drought. The latest 30-day outlook from the Climate Prediction Center shows a high probability of above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation through the month of July.
Among the indicators in the D4 Exceptional category, the US Drought Monitor says resident can expect:
* Wheat is baled for hay
* Tests are conducted on water nitrate levels
* Farm service agencies increase staffing
* Producers cull cattle herds
* Wildfires are immense and rural fire departments are stressed
* Rural fire departments may run out of funding
* Local economy is at a standstill
Click here to see the Drought Monitor page.
Priority For Citizens With Medical Needs
With recent record-setting high temperatures and possibly more on the way, the ND Department of Human Services is operating a cooling assistance program through September 2021 for qualifying lower-income households.
Cooling assistance aid is focused on adults age 60 and older and other individuals with qualifying medical conditions that put their health more at-risk from extreme heat. To participate, individuals must also qualify financially for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which serves households with incomes up to 60 percent of the state median income. A household of two can earn up to $41,118 a year and qualify for LIHEAP.
The cooling assistance program can help eligible households purchase and install a window air conditioning unit, repair an air conditioning unit or purchase oscillating or window fans. Individuals age 60 and older do not need to provide documentation of medical need. Younger individuals must provide a signed statement from a physician, physician assistant, nurse practitioner or public health nurse verifying their medical condition and the need for a cooled living space.
Current LIHEAP households can contact their local Community Action Program directly if interested in the program. Click here to access LIHEAP program information online. During the 2021 heating season, LIHEAP served about 12,650 households statewide. Last year, the cooling assistance program helped 193 qualifying North Dakota households.
Cutting Honored at Summer Social
When Kari Cutting found a job posting for Vice President of the North Dakota Petroleum Council in the newspaper in May 2011, she decided to take a chance and apply. Fast forward 10 years, four Williston Basin Petroleum Conferences, and countless events and programs later, she retired in June 2021.
Kari's experience and background in chemistry set her apart and allowed her to make major impacts on regulatory issues in the oil and gas industry. Her grit and tenacity inspired many -- especially other women -- to take chances and move the industry forward.
At NDPC's Summer Social this week in Medora, council members and employees gathered in Medora recognized Kari in a special program, highlighting her career and thanking her for all she has done in the industry. The program highlighted her work with establishing the One Basin, One Way program, organizing several Williston Basin Petroleum Conferences, and representing the oil and gas industry on numerous boards and committees, as well as in Washington DC.
Kari will be missed in her role, but she will still be around the industry. She recently started Cutting Edge Consulting, a regulatory consulting company of which she will serve as president.
Events July 13 and 15 in Arnegard, Mohall
Twice each summer, the North Dakota Petroleum Foundation holds the Bakken Rocks CookFest in two communities impacted by oil and gas development.
This year's 12th Annual Bakken Rocks CookFests will be held at the Arnegard Fire Hall on July 13 and the Mohall Community Center on July 15.
CookFest offers area residents the opportunity to get out and learn more about the industry, hear from experts, meet the employees of companies working in their area, and best of all, eat some of the best BBQ available in western North Dakota. With games and activities for kids, swag, giveaways, and live music, the free event is fun for the whole family.
The event will kick off both days with Bakken Basics Information Sessions at 2 p.m. with BBQ, live music, games and activities for kids, and more starting at 4:00 p.m.
Click here for more information on the ND Petroleum Foundation website.
WDEA Annual Meeting in Williston
The Western Dakota Energy Association will hold its annual meeting October 13-14 at The ARC in Williston.
The in-person event will get underway at 1:00 Wednesday afternoon, and will begin with one of the event's favorite speakers. Rather than concluding the event, this year's annual meeting will begin with a presentation by Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources. Helms is scheduled to deliver his traditional county-by-county production forecast report at 1:15, following opening remarks by WDEA President Shannon Holter and Williston dignitaries.
Other elements of the agenda are still being developed, but will feature speakers who will provide updates on major energy-related happenings including the pending sale of Coal Creek Station, the development of a hydrogen industry, efforts to develop in-state TENORM disposal options, career and technical education plans, and the ongoing debate over school funding.
The meeting will feature a social, short program and entertainment Wednesday evening. The event concludes Thursday afternoon with election of the WDEA Executive Committee.
Board members up for election who are eligible to serve an additional three-year term include Bowman Mayor Lyn James, Williams County Commissioner David Montgomery, Washburn Superintendent Brad Rinas who represents the Coal Conversion Counties, and a new member will be chosen to represent education members to replace Dickinson Superintendent Shon Hocker, who resigned to accept a position in Idaho.
NDPC Partnering with Univ of Mary on Effort
The ND Petroleum Council is partnering with the University of Mary Workforce Development Department and Envision Partners to launch a Leadership and Management Certification Program.
The program provides rising and current leaders with a professional development experience. All nine courses in the program are complemented by executive coaching sessions for those choosing to complete the entire series. The classes will be delivered through distance learning via the Zoom platform. The University of Mary will award participants with a Leadership and Management Plaque upon successful completion of all courses. Participants can also pick and choose courses and take them a la carte.
2021 Class Topics & Dates (all times CDT)
- Conflict Management – Aug 17 or 19: 1 – 5 pm (4-hour training)
- Emerging Leader – Sept 1, 8, 15, 22: 1 – 5 pm (2-day training)
- Delegation – Sept 28 or 30: 1 – 5 pm (4-hour training)
- Strategic Leader – Oct 6, 13, 20, 27: 1 – 5 pm (2-day training)
- Inclusion & Diversity – Nov 9, 23, 30, Dec 7: 1 – 5 pm (2-day training)
- Effective Workplace Communication – Dec 14 or 16: 1 – 5 pm (4-hour training)
For more information including cost of registration, click here.
- Carbon banking hangs in balance in agriculture-heavy states -- Bismarck Tribune
- Hamm talks about $100 oil, Xcel building gas plant, and more -- Williston Herald
- North Dakota could lead breakthrough in hydrogen landscape -- Tioga Tribune
- North Dakota PSC approves Mountrail County transmission line -- Bismarck Tribune
- Court signs off on Line 3, "environmental consequences" loom -- Grand Rapids Herald
- Road map to the future: Orphan wells likely mean decades of work ahead -- Williston Herald
- Ballot measure seeks term limits for North Dakota governor, Legislature -- Bismarck Tribune
- Project Tundra getting federal attention, comments at Senate hearing -- Williston Herald
- Four-Lane expansion completed on Long X Bridge, all lanes now open -- KFYR
- Crosby park board to study community center expansion -- Crosby Journal
- North Dakota DOT adding passing lanes to Highway 52 -- KMOT-TV
- Analysis: Oil companies bet on $100 a barrel as they rush to sell assets -- Reuters
- More women’s health services come to Watford City -- McKenzie County Farmer
- New Williston school district opens Thursday -- Williston Herald
- Dunseith School District in early planning stages for new building -- KMOT-TV
- Coal Creek purchase impact on Underwood School District -- KFYR-TV
- Justices deny Wyoming, Montana coal suit against Washington -- Associated Press
- Court: Toppled rig's owners can't sue Coast Guard contractor -- Associated Press
- Sen. Barrasso: US energy independence vital, Biden's policies could destroy it -- Fox News
- City of Williston has decided to ban the use of fireworks -- KFYR-TV
- Two former DOE Secretaries: Foreign demand for U.S. LNG "Astounding -- Energy in Depth
- Ignoring U.S. reliance on imported minerals is irresponsible -- Inside Sources
- Wall Street, tech firms fear SEC climate disclosure will trigger lawsuits -- Insurance Journal
- Address climate change through Congressional action, not lawsuits -- The Hill
- U.S. oil shale producers stick to output discipline -- Oil Price
- Electricity planning quagmire: Marginal cost pricing and renewables -- MasterResource blog
Factoid of the Week
There are more than 190,000 miles of liquid petroleum pipelines crossing the United States. Pipelines are safe, efficient and, because most are buried, largely unseen. Additionally, large natural gas distribution lines and smaller service lines that travel to homes and businesses account for the vast majority of the nation’s 2.4-million-mile underground pipeline system.
Source: American Petroleum Institute
Eagle Ridge Golf Course and The Links of ND
Bismarck and Bus Tour
Bismarck and Washburn
The ARC - Williston
July 2, 2021
WTI Crude: $75.16
Brent Crude: $76.17
Natural Gas: $3.70
North Dakota Active Oil Rigs: 23 (Up 3) 7/2/2020 -- 11 rigs