Tribe aims to cut high rate of flaring in half

NEW TOWN, N.D. – Reducing natural gas flaring on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation has more hurdles than the rest of the state, but a tribal task force says flaring can be cut in half within five years.

The reservation flares about 48 percent of its natural gas due to a lack of adequate pipelines and other infrastructure, said Carson Hood Jr., director of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation Energy Division.

“In the beginning, industry had not developed the infrastructure to accommodate future wells,” said Hood, one of three people heading the tribe’s flaring task force.

Overall natural gas flaring in North Dakota is lower than the reservation, most recently at 36 percent.

But the reservation has additional challenges, including working through lengthy processes with federal agencies to secure rights-of-way for pipelines, Hood said.

Other challenges include the characteristics and topography of the land at Fort Berthold and the impediment Lake Sakakawea presents to reaching transportation corridors.

“There’s more to it than off reservation, no question,” said Jim Glenn, senior land manager for Halcon Resources, which operates four drilling rigs on the reservation.

Despite the challenges, the task force has recommendations to reduce flaring at least by half within five years, the group said this week during the MHA Nation’s Oil and Gas Expo.

The group is working to coordinate with the North Dakota Industrial Commission’s efforts to reduce flaring, including requiring gas capture plans as recommended by the commission.

One of the tribe’s recommendations is for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to approve Fort Berthold rights-of-way applications from Denver, where it is easier to find staff to catch up to the backlog of applications, Glenn said.

Other recommendations include establishing energy corridors and creating a tribal pipeline authority to better coordinate and streamline the placement of pipelines.

“Anything to streamline permitting and putting in pipe is what needs to be done,” said Glenn, co-chairman of the task force.

The tribe also is looking into a natural gas processing plant on the reservation and the potential of a power plant, Tribal Chairman Tex Hall said.

“We have all this fuel and we don’t want it to be flared up into the atmosphere,” Hall said. “We want to capture it.”

The task force has allowed for good communication between the industry and tribal officials, which is key to solving the problem of flaring, said Claryca Mandan, the MHA Nation natural resources administrator.

“We have to do it collaboratively,” said Mandan, co-chairwoman of the task force.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and two senators from Wyoming introduced federal legislation last month aimed at reducing natural gas flaring.

The Natural Gas Gathering Enhancement Act would expedite the federal permitting process to issue rights-of-way for natural gas gathering lines on federal and Indian lands.

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