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.

Cleanup crew says filter sock dumpsite worse than initial report

NOONAN, N.D. – A cleanup crew has removed filter socks that were illegally dumped in an abandoned gas station in a remote corner of northwest North Dakota, and discovered that there was about twice as much waste as initially estimated.

Secure Energy Services filled two large rolloff Dumpsters with the waste that contains naturally occurring radioactive material to be disposed of in a special waste landfill in Idaho, said Scott Radig, director of the Division of Waste Management for the North Dakota Department of Health.

About 40 cubic yards of waste were removed, about twice the amount initially estimated, Radig said. Filter socks can build up low levels of naturally occurring radioactivity when used for filtering fluids produced during oil and gas exploration.

A survey meter showed that one area of the building had slightly elevated radioactivity levels about two times the background level, Radig said. Soil samples were collected and submitted to a lab for testing.

Depending on the results of the lab tests, further cleanup may be needed, Radig said.

“Individuals in the area are not in danger,” Radig said. “The only increased level of risk, and it would be a small increase, is if any of that soil was ingested.”

Because a responsible party could not be located, the cleanup is being funded through an Oil and Gas Division fund for abandoned oil and gas wells and site restoration. The money comes from oil and gas taxes, fines and fees.

The initial estimate for cleanup was $12,595. However, that cost will likely increase because of additional transportation and disposal costs required for the increased amount of waste, Radig said.

Also this week, the health department received a report of filter socks discovered north of Crosby. A man who purchased a property from Divide County after the previous owner failed to pay taxes on it discovered the waste after snow melted, Radig said.

Radig estimates the waste would fill six to eight garbage cans and is much smaller than the amount discovered in Noonan or the recent McKenzie County case that involved filter socks stockpiled on trailers.

The health department is investigating and working with the county on cleanup options, Radig said.

Oil revenue way up for tribes; money going to roads, other infrastructure

Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman Tex Hall speaks Wednesday, April 23, 2014, during the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation’s Oil and Gas Expo in New Town, N.D. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

NEW TOWN, N.D. – In less than one year, the Three Affiliated Tribes have collected $184 million in oil tax revenue, nearly equal to the amount collected during the entire 2011-13 biennium.

The jump in revenue is primarily due to increased oil production at Fort Berthold, which now produces more than 270,000 barrels per day and accounts for nearly 30 percent of North Dakota’s oil production.

Tribal Chairman Tex Hall said Wednesday if the Fort Berthold Reservation were a state, it would be the No. 7 top oil producing state in the country.

“That’s how fast we’re moving,” Hall said during the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation’s Oil and Gas Expo.

But the oil development comes with impacts for the reservation, and Hall outlined several major initiatives the tribe has planned to address them.

The tribe plans to spend $100 million to improve roads on the reservation that have taken a beating from heavy truck traffic, Hall said.

In addition, the tribe is planning $100 million for a proposed bridge project and $65 million in housing for medical staff as its clinic expands to a 24-hour ambulance service in response to an increased number of accidents, Hall said.

“These are all critical parts of the infrastructure needs,” Hall said.

During all of 2011-13, the Three Affiliated Tribes collected $188 million in oil tax revenue, according to the Office of the State Treasurer. Since July 1, the tribe has already collected $184 million in oil tax revenue.

In addition to the gain in revenue from increased oil production, the tribe is now getting a larger share of oil tax dollars resulting from a new tax agreement with the state.

Previously, the state received 80 percent of some of the oil tax revenue while the tribe received 20 percent, which Hall called “totally unfair.” An agreement reached at the end of last year’s legislative session changed the split to 50-50.

The tribe was projected to receive at least $80 million more in 2013-15 as a result of that agreement. However, with income from oil tax revenues running ahead of projections, Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner said he estimates the tribe will gain at least $100 million.

Wardner, who spoke during Wednesday’s event along with Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider, said it was “music to his ears” that the tribe is spending the additional tax dollars on roads.

Negotiations between state and tribal leaders were at times tense a year ago when some legislators wanted to stipulate in the agreement that the oil tax dollars be spent on roads. Tribal leaders objected to state government telling the sovereign nation how to spend its money.

Wardner, R-Dickinson, called for the state and the tribe to work more closely together to address issues such as natural gas flaring, handling of oilfield waste and drug trafficking.

“Their issues are our issues,” Wardner said.

One of the major initiatives the tribe is working on is a ¾-mile bridge to cross the Little Missouri River to provide easier access to the Twin Buttes area, Hall said.

The Charging Eagle Bridge, estimated to cost $100 million, would cut a 115-mile commute from Twin Buttes to the rest of the reservation in half, providing better access to health care, education and jobs, Hall said. Many oil companies have said there could be another 100 to 200 wells in Twin Buttes if they could access the area with a bridge, Hall said.

The tribe is holding public meetings on the proposal and has received concern from Twin Buttes community members about the potential for increased crime, Hall said.

In addition, the tribe plans to spend $50 million on a rail spur and site development for a rail-loading facility and diesel refinery near Makoti.

Thunder Butte Petroleum Services CEO Richard Mayer said the rail-loading portion of the project is expected to be complete in September with the refinery scheduled to open in spring of 2016.

Former oil trucker leading Bakken tour

WILLISTON, N.D. – Eastern North Dakota residents who want to see firsthand what’s happening in the Bakken can now take a tour guided by a former oil truck driver.

World Class Tours of Wahpeton is offering its first North Dakota oilfield educational tour this June. The business typically does vacation tours, but received a significant number of requests for an oilfield trip, said owner Jake Kubela.

“For the impact that western North Dakota is having on our state as a whole, we’re proud to be able to put this together and show people what it is out there that’s bringing all this money to our state,” Kubela said.

The trip, June 3-5, is catered to community leaders, educators, people interested in doing business in western North Dakota and others who want to learn more about the Bakken. It will include a tour of a crew camp, a visit to a rancher with oil development on his property and several speakers from the industry and local communities.

Kubela, who spent a year working as an oil truck driver in Bowman, will lead the tour and share his insights from working in the industry. Other stops include a rail-loading terminal and an oil-receiving station for a pipeline.

“I’ve hauled into all of these locations,” Kubela said. “I can explain in great detail how the oilfield works.”

Kubela co-owns the tour agency with his wife, Dawn, who is a native of Bowman.

The trip costs $599 for double occupancy and includes all meals and hotel stays in Dickinson and Williston.

The bus leaves from Wahpeton and will stop in Fargo, Valley City and Jamestown. Attendees are already registered from Devils Lake and Grand Forks who plan to drive and meet the bus, Kubela said.

For more information, visit or call (320) 334-1310. The deadline to register is May 9.

Williston business DAWA Solutions Group offered Bakken tours the past two summers but is not continuing it this year due to a lack of staff resources.

“There’s definitely still interest there,” said business owner Jeff Zarling.

A&B Tours of Minot offers one-day tours of the Bakken, but all seven tours lined up this season are sold out, said owner Kathy Chadwell.

“They sell out before we even advertise them,” Chadwell said.

Most of the motor coach tours are filled with seniors, with some driving from Minnesota or Canada to participate, Chadwell said. This year, she has a bus lined up from Wisconsin for the tour.

North Dakota Tourism Director Sara Otte Coleman said her office continues to hear about organized groups that are interested in Bakken tours. Other groups, such as Medora tours, sometimes ask for a guide to give them a brief overview of the oilfield, she said.

“It’s always good to get people out there to see it for themselves,” Otte Coleman said.

Western N.D. airports make pitch for help to FAA

Federal Aviation Administrator Michael Huerta, center, listens during a roundtable discussion Monday, April 21, 2014, in Williston, N.D., about airport needs in western North Dakota. He is hosted by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, Sen. John Hoeven and Rep. Kevin Cramer. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

WILLISTON, N.D. – Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Michael Huerta didn’t bring his checkbook to western North Dakota on Monday, but he pledged to partner with the state to address the challenges of rapid growth.

Huerta toured Williston’s airport, which saw a nearly 152 percent increase in commercial boardings in 2013 alone and has maxed out its facilities to keep up with the growth spurred by oil development.

“The FAA can’t respond as quickly as we’ve grown,” said Steven Kjergaard, manager of Williston’s Sloulin Field International Airport.

Huerta, along with North Dakota’s congressional delegation, also heard from airport administrators in Dickinson, Minot and Bismarck, which are also experiencing spikes in boarding numbers and strains on facilities.

“It’s not just one community, it’s really half a state,” said Andy Solsvig, director of the Minot International Airport.

North Dakota is breaking aviation records each year, from the number of gallons of fuel sold to the number of pilots licensed in the state, said Kyle Wanner, interim director of North Dakota Aeronautics Commission.

“We’ve never had more destinations available to the public and we’ve never had more flights per day,” Wanner said. “We could grow faster if the infrastructure was there to accommodate these needs.”

A study identified $857.2 million in aviation needs for North Dakota through 2022, with 62 percent of those capital needs coming from in oil-impacted communities, Wanner said.

Wanner estimates that after anticipated federal, state and local funding sources are applied, the state would still have a shortfall of $372.2 million in aviation needs through 2022.

The needs include:

- Williston city officials support relocating the airport and constructing a new facility to accommodate the increased traffic and larger jets. An option of expanding at the current location is also being studied.

- Dickinson’s Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport needs a new runway to handle larger aircraft and a new terminal to accommodate more passengers.

- Minot’s airport has an expansion project underway, but still needs additional funding.

- In Bismarck, the airport’s runway needs reconstruction due to its age and increased use.

The officials emphasized that the western North Dakota cities are among the fastest-growing in the nation.

“We need an airport that’s going to continue to grow with the population and meet the needs of southwest North Dakota,” said Matthew Remynse, manager of the Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport in Dickinson.

Huerta said the representatives conveyed a “compelling picture” of the state’s needs. But the FAA’s budget is $3.3 billion, and competition for the discretionary funding is strong due to a backlog of projects, he said.

Huerta said North Dakota will need to prioritize the projects.

“I can’t fathom that we could do all of these things at once,” Huerta said.

Sen Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said safety challenges at North Dakota’s airports will become more serious as more pressure is put on the airports.

“I think North Dakota has to make a pretty persuasive argument to be at the top of the list as it relates to safety,” Heitkamp said.

During the tour of the Williston airport, Kjergaard showed officials the terminal that was designed for about 10,000 per year. Today, the airport sees about that much commercial traffic in one month.

“Clearly the need here in Williston is dramatic,” said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D. “We need to do something and we need to get going now.”

Boardings of commercial service airports






























Source: North Dakota Aeronautics Commission

Faces of the Boom: Mom-and-pop store aims to keep small-town feel

Timothy and Jodi McGowan, owners of Comet Convenience Store in Alexander, N.D., help customers on Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

ALEXANDER, N.D. – Life can get hectic in the Oil Patch, but the town of Alexander has a new business where folks can slow down.

Jodi and Timothy McGowan opened a convenience store last week aimed at giving locals a place to buy milk and basic grocery items without battling the highway traffic.

The small town between Williston and Watford City had a convenience store, but it closed after an expanded truck stop opened outside of town on U.S. Highway 85.

Jodi, Alexander’s only hairstylist, received requests from the community to stock pop and candy in her salon. She and her husband decided to take it further and open Comet Convenience Store in the same building where she cuts hair.

“I understand we’re growing, but it’s kind of nice to keep the mom and pops here,” Jodi said.

Jodi was born in Williston and used to spend summers working at her grandparents’ dairy farm near Alexander. She lived away from North Dakota for many years before she and her husband moved from Colorado to Alexander in 2010.

“I just wanted to come back home,” Jodi said. “This always felt like home.”

While Jodi said she sees a lot of good things happening with the oil activity, she misses the days when her grandfather could stop his vehicle in the middle of the road in Alexander and chat with a friend.

“We’ve lost a lot of our innocence,” she said. “That part is hard.”

The couple hopes that the convenience store will be a place where locals can get the personal touch of a small town store. The building had been the town’s senior center, and still has tables in the back where people can gather.

Jodi is the primary employee, occasionally taking breaks from cutting hair to assist convenience store customers.

“Keeping in touch with the community has been exciting,” Jodi said.

Timothy, who works two-week shifts for a saltwater disposal well, also works at the store during his weeks off. Last week, he was off from his regular job and spent about 90 percent of his time at the store.

“I’m having a blast,” he said.

The store, open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays, is named after the town’s school mascot, the Comet. It carries convenience store items as well as local products, such as beef sticks from The Wurst Shop in Dickinson.

“We just want to help the community in whatever way we can to try to get it back to normal a little bit,” Jodi said.

UPDATED: Oil Patch truck driver charged with illegal dumping

This image from the Department of Mineral Resources shows an area of alleged dumping of saltwater, a byproduct of oil production, on a Williams County, N.D., gravel road from Feb. 11, 2014. Submitted photo

WILLISTON, N.D. – Criminal charges have been filed against a truck driver accused of illegally dumping oilfield waste in western North Dakota, and the trucking company he worked for could face more than $1 million in civil penalties, officials said Tuesday.

Leo Slemin, a driver with Black Hills Trucking of Wyoming, has been charged with a Class C felony for allegedly illegally dumping saltwater, a byproduct of oil production and an environmental hazard.

Black Hills Trucking faces potential fines from two state agencies for alleged repeat illegal dumping incidents and for hauling waste without a license since 2008.

In addition, the companies that hired Black Hills Trucking to haul their waste also could face penalties from the North Dakota Department of Health, said Dave Glatt, environmental health section chief.

A Department of Mineral Resources inspector witnessed Slemin on Feb. 14 driving a truck along a stretch of road in southwest Williams County with valves on the underside of the truck open, allowing saltwater to flow directly onto the ground, court records say.

The criminal charge, which is a violation of the North Dakota Industrial Commission rules, is being handled by the Attorney General’s Office.

“The state will not hesitate to bring criminal and civil actions when we learn of instances of illegal dumping,” Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said in a statement. “Those who blatantly disregard rules designed to protect the environment and keep our citizens safe will be held accountable for their actions.”

Slemin is scheduled to appear in Williams County District Court on Monday. Court information does not list an attorney for Slemin, who is from Mountrail County, according to a news release.

The Feb. 14 incident the inspector witnessed occurred in an area where numerous reports of illegal dumping have been received.

The Department of Mineral Resources, on behalf of the North Dakota Industrial Commission, issued a civil complaint against Black Hills Trucking seeking more than $950,000 in penalties for repeat dumping of waste on gravel roads alleged during February and March.

Surveillance equipment recorded the company’s trucks with saltwater pouring from open valves driving to and from a Williams County saltwater disposal well, the Department of Mineral Resources said.

A representative from the Williston office of Black Hills Trucking said the company has no comment.

In addition, the North Dakota Department of Health has issued the company a notice of violation for operating without a waste hauler’s license and other violations. The amount of fine will be determined through a hearing process, but some violations carry possible penalties of $12,500 per day, Glatt said.

Operating without a the proper license to haul oilfield waste carries a penalty of up to $1,000 per day, and health officials believe the company operated without a license since 2008, Glatt said.

The company had a permit and allowed it to expire May 9, 2008, according to the health department’s notice of violation. The department sent two notices in 2008 reminding the company to renew the license.

“There really is no excuse for them not to know that they need a license,” Glatt said.

Health officials will be investigating which oil companies hired Black Hills Trucking to haul the wastewater, and those companies could be fined as well, Glatt said.

The Oil and Gas Division verified that the company’s trucks were not hauling wastewater shortly after the company was notified of the violations, said Alison Ritter, department spokeswoman.

Health officials will be investigating which oil companies hired Black Hills Trucking to haul the wastewater, and those companies could be fined as well, Glatt said.

Stenehjem urged citizens and other waste haulers to report any suspected illegal dumping to authorities.

“The majority of waste haulers should not have to compete with those few who illegally cut corners,” Stenehjem said.

Newcomers enter race to lead boomtown

Marcus Jundt, right, candidate for Williston mayor, talks to residents April 7, 2014, about his campaign during an event at the Williston Brewing Company. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

WILLISTON, N.D. – Williston is the fastest-growing small city in America, and two among the thousands of new residents want to be the town’s mayor.

Entrepreneur Marcus Jundt, who moved to Williston to open restaurants, and archaeologist Jim Purkey, whose family moved to North Dakota after job layoffs, are challenging city commissioner and lifelong Williston resident Howard Klug for mayor.

Mayor Ward Koeser, who will retire in June after 20 years as mayor, said he’s pleased to see new Williston residents getting involved in local elections.

“To me, it’s a good sign of health, and it means that people want to get involved in the community,” he said.

Williston, the epicenter of North Dakota’s oil boom, has some of the highest rental prices in the country and resources, such as police and fire protection, that are stretched thin. Many other local races on the June ballot also have candidates who have moved to town recently.

Klug said residents encouraged him to run because they want a mayor with longtime roots in the community who knows how city government can run.

“Personally, I think I can do the community good and I do love this community,” said Klug, who has served on the commission for six years. “It’s my town.”

Howard Klug, part owner of The El Rancho Hotel in Williston, N.D., and a city commissioner, is running for mayor of Williston. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

Jundt, who moved to Williston 3½ years ago and is CEO of Williston Holding Company that has invested more than $15 million locally, said he’s running for mayor because he think the city can do better and think bigger.

“I’m running for a vision of where we can be and I’m running because I think I can be the best messenger for that vision,” Jundt said.

Purkey said he struggled with the idea of running for mayor of a town he’s lived in since December 2012. But friends encouraged him to run as an advocate for citizens who don’t feel like their voices are being heard.

“A lot of citizens feel alienated from the city council,” said Purkey, who moved with his family from Wichita, Kan., after job layoffs and is making Williston his permanent home.

Jim Purkey, candidate for mayor of Williston, N.D., works at Books on Broadway in Williston on Saturday, April 12, 2014. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

Klug, elected to the city commission in 2008 and re-elected in 2012, said he hears from residents that the city is on the right track as it responds to rapid growth. He said he’s running for mayor because there is work to do, including completing major street and infrastructure projects, enhancing the city’s downtown and developing affordable housing.

“I think it’s going to come together in a few years and Williston will be a great town, the best town,” Klug said.

Klug has worked at the The El Rancho Hotel for 30 years and is part owner. It’s adjacent to Williston Brewing Company, one of our restaurants owned by Jundt, and signs promoting Jundt for mayor can be seen in the restaurant’s windows from the hotel lobby.

“I find it amusing,” Klug said.

Jundt holds events every Monday night at Williston Brewing Company to get to know residents. He told a recent gathering that his campaign budget is $100,000.

“I think this is the most important election in the history of the city,” said Jundt, a Minnesota native whose career as a restaurateur includes co-founding Kona Grill.

Jundt said Williston should find ways to keep more oil revenue locally, such as through directly or indirectly taxing the oil industry, to support police and fire departments, build new schools and improve the city’s quality of life.

Jundt interviewed to serve on the Williston City Commission last year when a seat became vacant, but was not selected by the commission.

Purkey, whose family first lived in an RV in Watford City and commuted to Williston due to lack of housing, said he’s running a grassroots campaign to represent people who are struggling to find affordable housing.

“We need someone who knows what it’s like to try to struggle day-to-day in this city environment and looking at the needs of the everyday citizen,” he said.

Purkey is an archaeologist, but after years working project-to-project, he began working at Williston Home and Lumber so he could have stable income for his family. He works Saturdays at Books on Broadway in downtown Williston and has worked as a substitute teacher in Williston.

If elected, Purkey plans to hold regular public forums. He said he’s attended city commission meetings that are so packed residents can barely get in the door and they don’t feel like their voices are being heard.

Koeser said he does not plan to make an endorsement for the mayor’s race.

“I’m just glad there are options for people,” he said.

Small town adding activities with enrollment growth

Players for the Ray, N.D., high school baseball team watch their teammates at bat during a game on Thursday, April 10, 2014, in Ray. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

RAY, N.D. – The high school here has a baseball team for the first time since the 1970s, supported by a growing school enrollment and a “baseball fanatic” superintendent.

Ray Public School, in the heart of the Oil Patch, is competing in Class B Region 7 this spring after the community raised money to purchase equipment for the new team.

It’s the first time Ray has had a high school baseball team except for one year in the 1970s, said Ben Schafer, the superintendent and one of the team’s coaches.

“They’re pretty excited about having a baseball team again,” said Schafer, in his second year with the district. “I think everywhere should have a baseball team.”

The K-12 district enrolls about 270 students and is expected to increase as new housing developments in the booming area are constructed. The Census Bureau estimated Ray’s population to be 609 in 2012.

Fifteen students are on the roster this spring and younger kids have expressed an interest in the sport, Schafer said.

“Hopefully we can sustain it,” he said.

Tanner Garman, a junior who plays centerfield for the Jays, said he was excited to join the new team.

“Everyone should get the opportunity to play,” Garman said.

Haley Hodenfield, a senior, is one of three female players on the team. The school doesn’t have enough interest in girls’ softball, so Hodenfield and the other girls asked to be on the boys’ team.

“I’ve always dreamed about playing baseball,” said Hodenfield, a lifelong resident of Ray.

Community interest in the team’s games has been strong.

“Our town has always liked baseball,” Hodenfield said.

The Ray program is one of three new Class B baseball teams this year, said Matt Fetsch, an assistant director for the North Dakota High School Activities Association.

High schools in Stanley, also in oil country, and Oakes, in the southeastern part of the state, also formed new teams this year, Fetsch said. It’s been more common for North Dakota to see decreasing numbers of teams due to declining numbers or teams combining with neighboring schools, he said.

“That definitely goes against the norm compared to other activities,” Fetsch said.

Ray Public School also recently added cheerleading, Schafer said. The district doesn’t have any immediate plans to add more activities, but that could change with interest and community support, he said.

“You just never know with the growth what can happen,” Schafer said.

N.D. oil production up slightly in Feb, but still slowed by winter

WILLISTON, N.D. – North Dakota oil production increased 1.7 percent in February to 951,340 barrels per day, according to preliminary numbers released today by the Department of Mineral Resources.

Winter weather again slowed oil production, with 18 days during the month with temperatures five or more degrees below normal. The month also had four days with wind gusts too high for some crews to operate, Director Lynn Helms wrote in his monthly update.

In addition, more than 100 wells were shut down during the month to minimize natural gas flaring while the Hess Corp. gas processing plant at Tioga was converting to an expanded plant.

North Dakota produced nearly 1.1 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas in February, according to the preliminary figures.

The percent of natural gas flared remained at 36 percent, which ties the historical high set in September 2011. The Hess plant is now operating and should be at full capacity soon, Helms said.

Rail transportation of crude oil fell slightly in February to 67 percent, the North Dakota Pipeline Authority said.

North Dakota had 10,186 producing oil and gas wells in February, the preliminary figures show, which is a new all-time high for the state.