WILLISTON, N.D. – Natural gas that would be wasted at a well site here is instead being converted to electricity and delivering power into the electrical grid.
The technology is one example of methods being developed by Bismarck-based Blaise Energy that seek to reduce the amount of natural gas flared in North Dakota.
“Nobody likes to see the flaring, especially the industry and the regulatory people,” said Mark Wald, owner of Blaise Energy. “New technology, new ideas are what’s going to solve the flaring issue.”
At a Statoil well site on the edge of Williston, Blaise has three generators and a “grid shack” set up that convert natural gas into enough electricity to power about 40 homes.
The natural gas flare at that site ebbs and flows, but it would be about twice as large if some of the gas wasn’t being captured. The company plans to add additional equipment to capture more of the gas.
“The goal is to get rid of that flare completely,” Wald said.
Wald demonstrated the technology Friday to Paul Govig with the North Dakota Department of Commerce, which supported its development.
“Flared natural gas, we all agree, is a waste of energy,” Govig said. “Eventually, we’re going to get that problem solved, but it takes a while.”
Wald, a Dickinson native and University of North Dakota graduate, left the state to work on the West Coast before returning to North Dakota in 2008 to found Blaise Energy. The company focuses on various methods to capture natural gas at remote well sites.
“You see the big flare and you say, ‘There’s got to be something that can be done here,’” Wald said.
North Dakota flares about 29 percent of the natural gas it produces because construction of pipelines and natural gas processing plants has not kept up with oil production.
Wald said he believes new ideas will be part of the solution to reducing flaring, in addition to pipelines.
The same technology that generates power for the electrical grid also can be used to provide power to equipment at rural well sites and replace the use of diesel generators. Wald called it “nonsensical” to see rural well sites with huge flares adjacent to large diesel generators and tanks.
Blaise is working to expand the technology so it could be used to power a drilling rig or larger industrial sites with natural gas, Wald said.
The company also uses natural gas to power a gas processing plant in Divide County and has equipment that can separate the natural gas liquids, which can then be sold.
Blaise developed the technology with the help of a $375,000 grant from the North Dakota Oil and Gas Research Council and $2 million in federal stimulus funding. The public-private partnership was key to developing the methods, Wald said.
Now the company is seeking private investors to expand and serve more well sites.
“We’re losing a lot of business because we don’t have enough equipment,” Wald said.