Lawmakers hear industry leaders tout more efficient oil tech

South Dakota legislators Betty Olson, left, and Larry Rhoden participate in a tour of a drilling location Wednesday near Ray, N.D. Amy Dalrymple/Forum Communications

TIOGA, N.D. – Drilling rigs that can walk and hydraulic fracturing techniques that recycle water were highlighted Wednesday during a legislative tour of the Oil Patch.

As North Dakota’s oil production matures, companies are becoming more efficient and using technologies that reduce the environmental footprint, industry leaders said during a tour organized by the North Dakota Petroleum Council.

Companies are replacing older drilling rigs with hydraulic “walking rigs” that can efficiently drill multiple wells on the same location, said Kathy Neset, of Neset Consulting Service in Tioga.

“The technology is absolutely fantastic,” said Neset, a geologist who’s been working in North Dakota since 1979.

Nearly 50 people participated in the tour organized by the North Dakota Petroleum Council, including legislators from North Dakota and South Dakota.

Lynn Helms, director of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, said the state’s goal is to place well sites four miles apart and leave four miles of undisturbed landscape in between, Helms said.

Tour participants saw a hydraulic fracturing job near Williston that was reusing water from previous fracturing.

Brent Eslinger, who leads Halliburton’s Williston operations, said the company is experimenting with recycling water to cut down on the amount of freshwater required. A typical well requires about 1 million to 1.5 million galls of water for hydraulic fracturing, Eslinger said.

“So far we’ve had some pretty good results,” Eslinger said. “It could be kind of a game-changer.”

Tour participants also toured a gas plant and a rail facility and heard from industry leaders about the need for housing, law enforcement and other infrastructure.

“It is extremely important that all of you see what’s actually going on,” said Mark Johnsrud, president of Power Fuels in Watford City.

Rep. Ron Guggisberg, D-Fargo, said his constituents often ask him about the oil activity, so he wanted to attend the tour to see it firsthand.

Rep. Curtis Kreunn, R-Grand Forks, said was glad to see the progress that’s been made on the Western Area Water Supply Project, which will bring water to northwest North Dakota communities that previously had inadequate water.

Several South Dakota leaders who attended the tour said they want to learn from North Dakota and be proactive in their communities.

“We’d like to get ahead of it to see what legislatively we can do,” said Rep. Spencer Hawley, D-Brookings.

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