Conservationists have complained that the proposed Davis Refinery project is too close to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, but there's no visible sign of the Badlands from the site.
State Now No. 3 Behind New Mexico
North Dakota oil producers were forced to curtail production in July to meet natural gas capture targets, resulting in about a five percent decline in average daily production.
Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources, said July production fell to about 1.078 million barrels per day, down about 56,000 bbl/day from the previous month, which puts North Dakota 46,000 bbl/day behind New Mexico and into third place among the ranks of oil-producing states. The switch is not surprising as Helms points out there are currently 82 drilling rigs operating in New Mexico, more than three times the 27 that are running in North Dakota.
Helms said the decline in July was the result of outages at five natural gas processing plants, which forced producers to choke back or shut down production in an effort to meet the state's 91 percent gas capture target.
Click here to listen to Helms' comments.
Helms said producers came close to the gas capture target, falling just short at 90 percent, but he said few if any penalties would be imposed because the processing plant outages are considered force majeure events, meaning they are beyond the control of the producer.
Despite the drop in production, Helms said the number is just below the legislature's 1.1 million bbl/day forecast, but prices are well above the state's prediction, which bodes well for the state's revenue picture.
Click here to listen to Helms' comments.
Helms said the 27 rigs now running in North Dakota are about half what he would expect given the current price environment, but he expects that will improve in the coming year.
Click here to listen to Helms' comments.
Helms said there are currently 15 frac crews working in North Dakota to complete wells, which he expects will increase to 18 within the next few months. The number of wells waiting on completion dropped sharply in July, falling from 680 down to 521.
Click here to view or download the September Director's Cut.
Storage Apps Exceed Wind for the First Time
The Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), which serves much of North Dakota, has set another record for the number of applications accepted into its Generator Interconnection Queue (GIQ).
MISO interconnection customers submitted 487 applications representing approximately 77 gigawatts of new generation across the MISO footprint, 64 GW of which are renewables. The 2021 submissions represent the largest annual increase of requests in MISO, exceeding the previous high of 52 GW in 2020 by nearly 50 percent.
There are also changes in the type of renewable projects being submitted into MISO’s GIQ process. Solar projects represent the highest category with nearly 44 GW, followed by 12 GW in storage projects. MISO officials said it's the first time storage applications have surpassed wind projects, which totaled about 9.1 GW.
“The majority of the GIQ applicants are trending in line with meeting future clean energy goals set by our members and stakeholders,” said Andy Witmeier, director of Resource Utilization at MISO. “As intermittent resources become more prevalent, the need for our long-range transmission planning efforts is reinforced to address potential operational challenges in the future."
Wind has comprised a large part of the interconnection queue in the past decade, with solar resources emerging more recently in part due to advances in technology. A part of the GIQ process is the evaluation of issues impacting the ability of resources to sufficiently serve load and provide needed reserves at all times.
“Our planning efforts included developing the MISO futures report which highlights the impact of the rapid renewable growth on the electric grid and the transmission system,” said Witmeier. “We anticipated this shift towards more renewable technologies as a replacement for retiring conventional generation across the footprint, and we expect it to accelerate in the future.”
With this year’s influx of new projects, the MISO queue now includes 980 projects totaling 153 GW – 63 percent of which are solar. MISO is currently managing 15 ongoing queue cycles with another cycle set to start within the next year.
Western ND to Gain New Districts
North Dakota legislators working to draw new boundaries to even out the population among the state's 47 legislative districts met again this week, and several committee members presented their proposals for redrawing lines in their part of the state.
Among those making presentations to the committee were Dickinson Rep. Mike Lefor and Williston Senator Brad Bekkedahl. The 2020 census showed a gain of more than 100,000 residents in the past 10 years, which means each district must contain about 2,000 more people than the current 14,500 per district. Much of the increase was related to growth in the state's oil industry, which will likely translate to two new legislative districts and additional political clout for western North Dakota.
Senator Bekkedahl presented proposed changes to Districts 1, 2 and 4 in northwestern North Dakota. He told committee members the growth in the Williston area is sufficient to form a new legislative district.
Click here to listen to Bekkedahl's comments.
Bekkedahl said the corporate boundaries of Williston have almost tripled in size through annexation over the past 10 years, resulting in an area almost the size of Bismarck. He also discussed the possibility of redrawing District 4 that would split it in a way that would improve the prospects for electing a representative from the Ft. Berthold Reservation. Bekkedahl said the population of the reservation is 8,350 people, which would make it nearly a perfect sub-district with half the population required in a full district.
Rep. Lefor presented proposed changes to Districts 31, 33, 36, 37, 39 and a new district in southwestern North Dakota. He said the population of the Dickinson has grown enough that, combined with population shifts in other areas, will require the formation of a new district.
Click here to listen to Lefor's comments.
Lefor's proposal contemplates significant changes to District 39, which currently stretches from Watford City and McKenzie County, all the way to Bowman County in the southwestern corner of the state. The new District 39 would encompass most of McKenzie County and northern Dunn County, excluding the reservation, as well a portion of western Mercer County.
The Redistricting Committee is scheduled to meet at least two more times - next week, September 22-23, and again the following week, September 28-29. The new district boundaries will be formally adopted during a special legislative session, which is expected to occur sometime in November. Click here to see links to proposed redistricting maps.
Click here to read a Dickinson Press article about the interest of ND tribes to create subdistricts.
DEQ Extends Construction Permit
The Department of Environmental Quality has granted another extension to Meridian Energy Group, the developer of a proposed oil refinery just southwest of Belfield.
The Davis Refinery project, initially authorized by the DEQ in 2018, was previously granted an 18-month extension of its construction permit, which requires that it shows progress on the work. Environmental Engineer David Stroh, speaking at a recent meeting of DEQ's Environmental Review Advisory Council, said the first extension was granted in response to delays associated with a legal challenge from groups that argued the project should not have been permitted because of its proximity to Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Click here to listen to Stroh's comments.
The extension Meridian was granted was to expire in June of this year, but the company sought another extension because of delays primarily associated with the pandemic and ongoing litigation. DEQ granted a shorter three-month extension, requiring that Meridian show construction was underway or the permit would expire. Meridian reported that it has entered into what it calls a “critical and central” contract with the engineering firm McDermott International to design and construct major pieces of equipment for the proposed refinery.
Stroh said because of the size of the project, which contemplates a $1 billion investment to complete the 49,500 barrel/day, full conversion crude oil facility, the DEQ is strictly following federal Prevention of Significant Deterioration guidelines aimed at protecting air quality.
Click here to listen to Stroh's comments.
Meridian told DEQ that it signed a contract in June with McDermott, the terms of which exceed 10% of the refinery’s total cost, which meets its obligation to show construction has begun. The contract provides for the detailed design, engineering, procurement, fabrication and construction of the atmospheric and vacuum distillation units for the refinery.
Click here for a Dickinson Press article about Meridian's plan to begin construction on the refinery in 2022.
AG Met with Corps and DOJ Lawyers
ND Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and two other state lawyers met with attorneys from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Justice this week to negotiate a settlement of a lawsuit filed in 2019.
The state's suit seeks to recover nearly $40 million in damages and policing costs incurred during the contentious Dakota Access Pipeline Protests in 2016 and 2017. The protests resulted in $38 million in damages and over 700 arrests at protest campsites.
According to Morton County officials, nearly 94% of those arrests were protesters from out of state, meaning taxpayers were stuck with a bill for damage largely created by people who did not live in North Dakota. Aside from damages on federal and state lands, personal property damage was reported by 544 households totaling more than $8 million. The state's lawsuit focuses around the damages on land controlled by the Corp of Engineers.
The central argument from Stenehjem insists although the Justice Department gave North Dakota a $10 million grant for policing-related costs, and the pipeline developer donated $15 million, the money doesn't negate the Corps' responsibility to pay the state's $38 million total costs. The AG argues that since the Corps allowed protesters to camp illegally, damaging surrounding infrastructure and requiring a massive police effort, it is the Corps' responsibility to pay for it. The Corps maintains it allowed the protestors to stay under the pretense of free speech rights.
The legal teams' negotiation was mediated by U.S. Magistrate Judge Alice Senchal at the federal courthouse in Bismarck. After more than 3 hours of talks, Senechal suggested it may take more time for the negotiations to reach a settlement. There has been no date set for the next round of negotiations, and if no settlement is reached, the lawsuit will go to trial in May of 2023.
Read more about the negotiations in James MacPherson's article for the Associated Press.
Project Noted for Operations Excellence
The ND Department of Transportation has received a regional award for the new Long X Bridge located south of Watford City on Highway 85.
The project won in the Operations Excellence category which recognizes projects that deliver a more reliable, well-functioning, and safer transportation system through operational solutions. The award was announced at the America’s Transportation Awards, held at the Western Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials conference this week in Salt Lake City.
“This project is a great example of why our state highway system continually ranks among the best in the nation,” said NDDOT Director Bill Panos. “Thank you to the hundreds of individuals who invested time and talent in this project, creating a safer and more suitable bridge for western North Dakota.”
The Long X Bridge project included a complete bridge replacement, highway construction and the addition of a wildlife crossing under Highway 85, giving wildlife a safe place to cross and reducing the chance of a highway crash.
“Building this four-lane bridge when accompanied by the corresponding four-lane of Highway 85 is a life changing as well as a lifesaving event for those who live and work in western North Dakota,” said Watford City Senator Dale Patten in his nomination letter.
In the past, trucks striking the top of the old truss bridge were a frequent occurrence, often closing the bridge for days while crews inspected and repaired the damage. The temporary closures resulted in detours up to 100 miles, adding considerable time and cost to move people and products across the state. The new Long X Bridge features four, 12-foot driving lanes with a median in the center, eliminating the overhead bridge structure and accommodating larger trucks.
Click here to learn more about the nominees and to view the awards presentation.
Feature Stories on Coal Creek, Hydrogen
The fall issue of WDEA's semi-annual magazine Basin Bits will soon be arriving in mailboxes throughout North Dakota, the United States and Canada.
The cover story of this issue describes the pending sale of Coal Creek Station to Rainbow Energy Center, and its implications for employees of the plant and associated lignite mine. The article also includes comments about the importance of the deal to North Dakota from state officials and Rainbow executives. The image on the magazine cover provides a sunrise view of the 1,151-megawatt power plant.
The fall issue also includes articles describing the evolving effort to develop solutions for TENORM waste (technologically-enhanced, naturally-occurring radioactive material) produced from oilfields in North Dakota; the announced partnership between Mitsubishi and Bakken Energy to purchase the Dakota Gasification Company synfuels plant to establish a hydrogen hub in the the state; a look at the realignment and extension of the runway at Watford City's Airport and its importance to the region; and plans to develop salt caverns in North Dakota that could lead to establishment of a petrochemical industry in North Dakota.
Role of Artificial Intelligence to be Examined
The National Science Foundation has awarded a nearly $6 million grant to North Dakota State University for researching the potential impact of artificial intelligence on critical energy infrastructure.
The abstract of the grant award noted the need to make current and future energy infrastructure more responsive and resilient. NDSU's research aims to enhance technological progress and develop a workforce ready for the era of artificial intelligence (AI). The research team, which also includes the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, University of Nevada- Las Vegas, and Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College, will focus on vulnerable elements in energy and related-infrastructure networks, evaluate the condition of the energy infrastructure, and develop automated resilience strategies against catastrophic failure.
The team of experts in industrial civil, electrical and environmental engineering, computer science (especially AI), electrical engineering (especially power systems), public policy and economics, will explore a broad cross-section of industries where AI can be useful. The effort will promote AI as an industry of the future, along with an AI-proficient workforce by offering an AI-related associate degree and minor programs.
The intellectual goal of the research program is to investigate the potential of AI as a driving force for bringing about necessary improvements to critical infrastructure and industries. The effort will attempt to (1) understand and quantify interdependency in infrastructure networks; (2) develop a decentralized AI-based health monitoring and failure prediction system; and (3) create a framework for improving the resilience of energy infrastructure and local industries.
Sponsorships Available for Williston Event
Registration is now open for the Western Dakota Energy Association's annual meeting to be held October 13-14 at The ARC in Williston. Sponsorships and exhibit space are also available.
The in-person event will get underway at 1:00 Wednesday afternoon, and will begin with Lynn Helms, one of the event's favorite speakers. Helms, the director of the Department of Mineral Resources, will deliver his traditional county-by-county production forecast report at 1:15, following opening remarks by WDEA President Shannon Holter and a welcome message from Williams County Commission Chairman Steve Kemp.
The opening day will also feature presentations about the emerging hydrogen economy, updates regarding LoadPass Permits and the Wise Roads project, a panel discussion of transportation and truck permitting issues, and a status report on North Dakota's impending solutions to dispose of TENORM (technologically-enhanced, naturally-occurring radioactive material). Attendees of the evening social will be entertained by singer/songwriter Alma Cook, and hear an update on efforts to four-lane portions of Highway 85 from Cal Klewin, director of the Theodore Roosevelt Expressway Association.
Day Two features a keynote address from Lt. Governor Brent Sanford during the noon luncheon. The day kicks off with a welcome message from Williston Mayor Howard Klug. The morning agenda includes presentations about a new national shale energy organization, coming changes in evolving electric markets, opportunities created by energy legislation passed in 2021, a report on development of the Bakken Area Skills Center, a panel discussion on education funding and other school-related issues, remarks from Williston State College President Bernell Hirning, and a report on interim legislative activity from Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner.
The wrap-up Thursday afternoon includes a review of oil and natural gas takeaway capacity from ND Pipeline Authority Director Justin Kringstad, a report on the pending sale of Coal Creek Station, and concludes 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 after accepting a position in Idaho.
Event Set For Sept 21-23 in Watford City
The North Dakota Petroleum Council's annual meeting is fast approaching, and the association has a full agenda with more than 25 speakers and panelists of interest to petroleum operators in North Dakota.
The meeting is back in the heart of the Bakken in Watford City, a community heavily impacted by oil and gas production. Along with the busy agenda, NDPC's annual meeting features a chairman’s luncheon and annual awards ceremony to honor companies and individuals who have positively impacted the industry, including excellence in safety, community engagement, and environmental stewardship. NDPC will also induct a new member of the NDPC Hall of Fame, and bestow its Distinguished Industry Leader Award.
The meeting is scheduled for September 21-23 at the Rough Rider Center and includes plenty of opportunities to network with industry professionals and experience what Watford City has to offer.
Key speakers for the meeting include:
- Former U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke - "Energy, America, Freedom"
- Chairman Mark Fox of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation
- Daniel Brown, CEO of Oasis Petroleum - "Growing the Bakken"
- Todd Slawson, President of Slawson Industries
- Jason Roe, CEO of EcoVapor Recovery Systems - ZERO2 Venting and Flaring Reduction
- Brian Cebull, President & CEO of GTUIT – "Direct Fueling of Frac Fleets"
- Dewey Gerdom, VP Business Development for Grayson Mill Energy – "Grayson Mill Energy in the Bakken"
- Todd Steinwand, President and CEO of Bank of North Dakota
Meeting Set For September 29-30 in Bismarck
The Lignite Energy Council has announced the agenda for its fall conference, which features speakers and sessions focused on providing industry updates and information to its members.
Keynote speaker for the gathering will be noted author and energy expert Robert Bryce. Over the past three decades, his articles have appeared in numerous publications including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, National Review, Field & Stream and the Austin Chronicle.
The conference will include an awards luncheon, CoalPAC breakfast, exhibitor booths for Lignite Energy Council member companies, and ample time to network with industry leaders.
It will be held September 29-30 at the Bismarck Event Center. The line-up of speakers will discuss topics that include:
- Environmental, Social & Corporate Governance
- The Regional Electric Grid and Reaching Carbon Neutral
- Importance of baseload power and teamwork
- Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage
- North Dakota Legislative Look-back and Clean Sustainable Energy Fund
- Mine & Plant Updates
- Judge upholds law limiting collection of old oil and gas royalties -- Fargo Forum
- North Dakota agencies busy with transfer of Coal Creek permits -- Bismarck Tribune
- Frackers In Texas, ND finally earn credit for addressing flaring -- Forbes
- Oasis to talk transformation during NDPC annual meeting -- Williston Herald
- Stark Co. moratorium begins; Dickinson to expand zoning reach 2 miles -- Dickinson Press
- NDPC to comment on proposed oil & gas administrative changes -- Williston Herald
- Energy Authority drafts rules, WDEA registration open and more things to know -- Williston Herald
- Pursuing 'better representation,' North Dakota tribes call for split House districts -- Dickinson Press
- Wife of North Dakota Congressman Armstrong becomes a US citizen -- Fargo Forum
- North Dakota health care system needs 300 nurses, "crisis exists" -- Oil City News
- ND to receive 49 Afghan refugees; "rigorous vetting process" -- Dickinson Press
- City Commission approves more than $272,000 in STAR Fund grants -- Williston Herald
- Former UND administrator takes key role at TR Library Foundation -- Dickinson Press
- 2021 Best of the Bakken winners, favorite businesses in city -- Williston Herald
- Special election race for city commission seat takes shape -- Tioga Tribune
- Park board considers rec center options including former nursing home -- Crosby Journal
- Enrollment increasing at Dickinson Public School, up 119 students -- Dickinson Press
- Incumbent school board members may not seek re-election; COVID burnout -- Prairie Public
- Tioga schools take measures to prevent crippling COVID outbreaks -- Tioga Tribune
- Dickinson Middle School walk 2,996 steps to honor 9-11 victims -- Dickinson Press
- Germany: Coal tops wind as primary electricity source; 27% of nation's power -- Deutsche Welle
- Chevron, Exxon, Valero, others win bids for U.S. reserve oil, Energy Dept says -- Reuters
- Congressional Democrats call oil giants to testify on climate campaign -- Minot Daily News
- Eighth Circuit reverses dismissal of Andeavor trespassing case -- Williston Herald
- Los Angeles County votes to phase out oil and gas drilling -- Bismarck Tribune
- Democrats Rethink Climate Measures, Consider Carbon Tax -- The Wall Street Journal
- How Long Can U.S. Shale Producers Resist The Oil Price Rally? -- OilPrice.com
- Where climate change is concerned, weather history is irrelevant -- Inside Sources
- US exported slightly more oil than it imported in first half of 2021 -- Energy Information Administration
Factoid of the Week
Source: Just Facts: Energy
Bismarck Event Center
via Microsoft Teams
Bismarck Event Center
Bismarck Event Center
The ARC - Williston
Bismarck Event Center
Ramkota Hotel - Bismarck
September 17, 2021
WTI Crude: $71.97
Brent Crude: $75.34
Natural Gas: $5.11
North Dakota Active Oil Rigs: 27 (Down 1) 9/17/2020 -- 10 rigs