One pipeline project pushes forward; another stalls amid low prices

WATFORD CITY, N.D. – One energy company said Tuesday it wants to construct a new pipeline as soon as possible despite low oil prices while a second company said its project is on hold until prices rebound.

Oasis Midstream Services presented to the Public Service Commission its plan to build a 19-mile pipeline in McKenzie County to deliver oil to the Dakota Access pipeline.

The company, a subsidiary of Oasis Petroleum, said low oil prices have not affected the timing of the $13 million pipeline proposed for the core of the Bakken, said Antonio Macia, project manager with Oasis Midstream.

“Oasis has committed to focus on this area and develop this acreage. And though activity has come down, it’s really consolidated to this area,” Macia said.

The Public Service Commission, which held two back-to-back public hearings in Watford City Tuesday, continues to see pipeline applications at about the same pace despite the slowdown in drilling, said Chairwoman Julie Fedorchak.

The proposed crude oil pipeline is associated with a natural gas processing plant and crude oil handling facility that Oasis is building near Watford City called the Wild Basin facility.

The crude oil pipeline would originate at Wild Basin and travel east to the area known as Johnsons Corner, a hub for several pipelines.

Oasis plans to construct a lateral pipeline about 1 mile long that would connect the mainline to the Dakota Access pipeline, which is still under regulatory review in Iowa. The pipeline also would connect to a Tesoro terminal at Johnsons Corner if Dakota Access does not get built, Macia said.

The pipeline, which would transport up to 75,000 barrels per day, could eliminate 250 trucks per day off the roads, Macia told commissioners. If the project is approved, construction could begin as early as April 1.

The natural gas plant, which would process up to 80 million cubic feet per day, is scheduled to be complete in the third quarter of this year, Macia said.

The Public Service Commission also heard Tuesday from Oneok Bakken Pipeline, a company that operates in the same area, about a proposal to transport more natural gas liquids out of North Dakota.

The proposed 14.4-mile pipeline in McKenzie County, to be constructed alongside an existing pipeline, would increase Oneok’s capacity from 74,000 barrels per day to 93,000 barrels per day.

The pipeline would transport a mixture of natural gas liquids including ethane, propane and butane for further processing out of state.

Oneok planned to start construction during the first half of this year, but has postponed the project until 2017, said James Akingbola, project manager.

The company asked the PSC to proceed with reviewing its permit request so construction can begin when energy prices improve.

“We don’t know when but we want to be ready and there when we’re needed,” Akingbola said.

The $19.5 million project would start at the Garden Creek Gas Plant near Watford City and go west and south through McKenzie County. Nearly 90 percent pipeline would mirror an existing Oneok natural gas liquids pipeline and be within the same pipeline right-of-way.

No members of the public testified at either hearing. Commissioner Randy Christmann said when the public doesn’t attend the hearings, if often means the companies have done their homework in working with landowners and obtaining easements.

“Oftentimes the lack of commentary says something even louder than the commentary we receive at other hearings,” Christmann said.

 

PSC granted permits for $2 billion in energy projects in 2015

BISMARCK – The North Dakota Public Service Commission approved more than $2 billion in energy-related projects in 2015, the agency said this week.

The siting permits approved last year included 16 transmission pipelines totaling more than 495 miles, including both new projects and pipelines that were converted to transmission pipelines.

“Despite low oil prices, companies continue to invest in major new projects that provide critical infrastructure such as pipelines, gas plants and electric generation facilities to serve energy development and growth,” said Commission Chairman Julie Fedorchak.

The amount of new projects approved in 2015 was slightly down from 2014’s total of $2.7 billion, but still significantly higher than 2013 when the agency approved more than $1 billion in projects.

Other siting permits approved in 2015 included about 245 megawatts of gas-fired generation, two natural gas processing plant expansion projects, two new electric transmission lines and two wind farms with about 250 megawatts of generating capacity.

“These are the projects that will make our energy systems safer, more efficient, and less of a burden for the general public,” said Commissioner Randy Christmann.

Fedorchak, who spoke this week during the Northwest Landowners Association expo in Stanley, said when commissioners approve major pipeline projects, they require companies to meet criteria on pipeline installation and reclamation. The agency also uses third-party pipeline inspectors to monitor the work.

Fedorchak pointed out that construction on the most significant North Dakota crude oil pipelines is still yet to come.

The largest pipeline approved last year, the Dakota Access pipeline, is awaiting regulatory approval in Iowa before construction can begin. Similarly, Enbridge is waiting to start construction on the Sandpiper until it receives approval in Minnesota.

Another major project the PSC anticipates to consider in the near future is the Upland Pipeline proposed by TransCanada Corp., the same company behind the Keystone XL. The Upland project would potentially carry oil from the Williston area north to connect with other pipelines that reach markets in eastern Canada and the eastern U.S.

The project, which would initially transport 220,000 barrels per day, is scheduled to go into service in 2020. TransCanada says on its website it plans to apply to the PSC by 2018 and start construction in 2019.

“Those are some pretty big lines still yet to come, so we want to have all the tools in place to have the best possible outcome for those projects,” Fedorchak said.

 

State official says big pipeline spills should soon be a thing of the past

Troy Coons, from left, chairman of the Northwest Landowners Association, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and landowner Gary Tofte talk on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, during the association's landowner expo in Stanley, N.D. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

Troy Coons, from left, chairman of the Northwest Landowners Association, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and landowner Gary Tofte talk on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, during the association’s landowner expo in Stanley, N.D. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

STANLEY, N.D. – Pipeline spills should become a smaller problem in North Dakota after new regulations are developed, a state official said Tuesday.

“We shouldn’t have large spills anymore. That’s my goal,” said Kevin Connors, pipeline program supervisor for the Department of Mineral Resources.

Connors outlined the new state pipeline program to about 300 landowners, state officials and oil company representatives who gathered Tuesday in Stanley for a Northwest Landowners Association expo.

New rules on gathering pipelines being proposed to the Industrial Commission this month aim to reduce the number of small pipeline spills and eliminate large spills that go undetected, Connors said.

The rules, which the public will have the opportunity to comment on before they take effect next January, will emphasize better pipeline installation and more thorough third-party inspections.

“Making sure these pipelines are installed properly is better than any leak detection technology out there,” Connors said.

The Northwest Landowners Association, a grassroots group that promotes balancing the rights of landowners with oil and gas development, brought Connors and other state and industry officials together Tuesday to meet with landowners.

Chairman Troy Coons said the group has seen improvements in how state agencies and oil companies respond to landowner issues, including recent legislative changes that are leading to more robust pipeline regulations.

“There’s definitely more that needs to be done, but they can see there are some changes,” Coons said.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, one of three members on the Industrial Commission, said the commission strives to balance welcoming the oil industry while requiring companies to follow the rules and leave things better than when they came.

“That is the delicate and very difficult and controversial balance that those of us on the Industrial Commission try to strike,” he said.

Stenehjem defended the Industrial Commission’s practice of suspending a large portion of fines for oil companies, pointing out that companies are often required to meet conditions that cost more to implement than the fines.

“We would much rather impose a significant penalty, suspend a lot of it on conditions that are very important, and conditions that can make sure that we’re actually going to end up in better shape,” Stenehjem said.

Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, who also serves on the Industrial Commission, encouraged landowners to use the department’s new pilot program designed to help resolve issues with pipeline reclamation.

“It’s working. It’s helping. It’s building bridges, and our companies are doing a better job of engaging the contractors and subcontractors and making sure they’ll held accountable,” Goehring said.

Several officials said improving communication between landowners and companies can resolve many issues, whether it’s a spill cleanup or pipeline reclamation.

“We often act on behalf of landowners who have an issue,” said Public Service Commission  Chairwoman Julie Fedorchak. “I have yet to have a company say we’re not going to do it, we’re not going to fix it. Quite frequently, they tell us they weren’t aware.”

Kathy Johnson, who farms south of Arnegard, said many of the efforts outlined Tuesday, including improvements on pipeline reclamation, are a step in the right direction.

“Now we know another avenue of who to contact,” Johnson said.

Dennis Johnsrud, who farms near Epping, said he’s been reluctant to allow new pipelines until issues with existing pipelines get resolved.

“It’s important that we come together and get some of it fixed,” Johnsrud said.

Property owners are becoming more educated and better able to respond to challenges than they were in the early days of the Bakken development, Coons said.

“This came on so fast, they didn’t know about the proper leases and what to ask for,” Coons said. “It overwhelmed them, all of us.”

A video and other information from the event will be posted at http://nwlandowners.com.

 

State agencies phasing out Oil Patch stipends

WILLISTON, N.D. – With less competition for employees, some state agencies are beginning to reduce or phase out extra pay for western North Dakota employees.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation is among the agencies gradually reducing stipends designed to fill critical jobs in the Oil Patch where high wages made it challenging to recruit and retain workers.

Economic conditions have changed with low oil prices, less competition for workers and more affordable housing.

“Three years ago, we used to have 20 to 25 openings,” said Peggy Anderson, spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation. “Now we have just a few.”

The state allocated just under $8 million for the 2015-17 biennium in energy impact funding for rental subsidies and other salary add-ons, said Sheila Peterson with the Office of Management and Budget. About half of that amount was spent during the first year of the biennium, she said.

The Legislature last session directed the seven agencies receiving those dollars to begin reducing the stipends, Peterson said.

“The Legislature indicated this should be considered one-time money and all of the agencies should anticipate a phase-out of it by the 17-19 biennium,” said Peterson, who is director of the fiscal management division.

For 270 Department of Transportation employees, including snow plow drivers, mechanics and other workers, their stipends will be gradually reduced beginning with their March paychecks, Anderson said. The amounts vary, but one worker currently getting a $750 monthly stipend will see that gradually reduced to $400 a month in July, she said.

Similarly, the North Dakota Highway Patrol will reduce $500 monthly stipends for 22 western North Dakota troopers to $300 starting March 1, said Lt. Tom Iverson.

“We’ve wanted to be conservative with this from the beginning,” Iverson said. “We have always planned to phase it down.”

The Highway Patrol does not have any openings in western North Dakota, Iverson said.

“I don’t think it’s going to have an adverse effect on our recruitment and retention,” Iverson said.

Both the Department of Transportation and the Highway Patrol plan to continue rental subsidies in Oil Patch counties, but those programs also will continue to be under review.

“All the agencies all along have told their employees this is one-time money, it’s subject to legislative appropriation,” Peterson said.

The North Dakota Department of Human Services already has reduced $500 monthly stipends for about 285 western North Dakota workers. Since last July, the employees in Williston and Dickinson have received $400 stipends and workers in Minot have received $200. The add-ons are being evaluated for the next fiscal year, said spokeswoman Heather Steffl.

The North Dakota Historical Society also recently reduced monthly stipends for three employees from $600 to $260 and will re-evaluate the stipends again before the end of the fiscal year.

Watford City Mayor Brent Sanford said it has become easier to recruit public sector employees in western North Dakota as housing has gotten cheaper and the job market has tightened.

But the community continues to find it challenging to hire law enforcement, Sanford said.

“It probably is time to look at these incentives,” Sanford said. “If they see people not able to fill the positions again, then they’ll have to look at it again.”

 

Hearings set for two McKenzie pipelines

WATFORD CITY, N.D. – The North Dakota Public Service Commission will hold two public hearings on Feb. 9 in Watford City on separate pipeline proposals.

ONEOK Bakken Pipeline proposes to construct a 14.4-mile steel loop pipeline and associated facilities in McKenzie County.

The proposed $19.5 million pipeline would parallel and interconnect with the existing ONEOK Garden Creek NGL Pipeline to increase its capacity from 74,000 barrels per day to 93,000 barrels per day.

The pipeline, would would transport natural gas liquids, would start at the Garden Creek Gas Plant near Watford City and go west and south through McKenzie County. About 12.8 miles of the proposed loop would be located within the existing pipeline right-of-way.

The hearing for the ONEOK proposal is at 9 a.m. Feb. 9 at Teddy’s Residential Suites, 113 9th Ave. S.E., Watford City.

A second hearing will be held at 1 p.m. Feb. 9 at the same location on an Oasis Midstream Services proposal.

Oasis proposes to build about 19 miles of pipeline in McKenzie County to transport crude oil. An 18.3-mile mainline would transport up to 75,000 barrels per day from the Wild Basin Gas Processing and Crude Handling Facility near Watford City to the Tesoro Johnsons Corner Station.

An additional lateral pipeline just under 1 mile long would transport crude oil from the mainline to the proposed Dakota Access pipeline.

The project is estimated to cost $13 million and would include three above-ground oil storage tanks at the Wild Basin location.

The hearings will include an opportunity for the public to comment. For more information, visit www.psc.nd.gov.

 

Worthless oil? Report overstates decline of ND crude

WILLISTON, N.D. – Oil prices in North Dakota have reached historic lows, but not quite as low as some national headlines portrayed this weekend.

A story that appeared on Bloomberg.com with the headline “The North Dakota crude oil that’s worth less than nothing” referred to Friday’s price for North Dakota sour crude as -$.50 a barrel, as posted by Flint Hills Resources.

But on Tuesday, Flint Hills Resources spokesman Jake Reint said the negative price was an error. It should have said $1.50 a barrel, Reint said.

Either way, a low price for North Dakota sour crude has little significance for the state, said Eugene Graner, president of Heartland Investor Services in Bismarck.

That’s because North Dakota sour crude is a lower quality crude oil with a high sulfur content, much different from the light, sweet Bakken crude oil that makes up a majority of the state’s oil production.

Sour crude accounted for less than 1 percent of North Dakota’s total oil production in November —  about 7,400 barrels per day out of the total 1.18 million gallons of oil produced that month, the Department of Mineral Resources said.

“It’s a great headline. It would make the average person in North Dakota think ‘Oh my god, oil in North Dakota doesn’t have any value anymore,’” Graner said. “No, it’s because we don’t produce sour crude anymore.”

The small amount of sour crude that was produced in November came from 754 wells in Bottineau and Renville counties.

The price of sour crude did get down to $.50 last Tuesday, according to the Flint Hills benchmark price.

Operators with those wells, as well as others in North Dakota that have marginal production, are shutting in wells due to low prices, Graner said.

“They’re going to shut the well off. They’re not going to lose money,” he said.

North Dakota had 13,077 total producing wells, down from 13,190 wells in October, an indication that operators were shutting down wells with marginal production, Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources, said last week.

The most significant oil price for the state is the price of North Dakota sweet crude, which Flint Hills listed as $17.25 Tuesday.

Graner said he anticipates the price will stay around $20 but see increases in a few months, in part due to an increase in seasonal demand and a reduction in the domestic oil supply.

“By the summer months, we’ll be back in the mid-30s to low 40s,” Graner said.

UPDATED: November oil production steady despite low prices

WILLISTON, N.D. – North Dakota oil production increased slightly in November, but companies are “running on empty” as they start the new year with plunging oil prices, the state’s top oil regulator said Friday.

Daily oil production increased more than 5,000 barrels in November to nearly 1.18 million barrels per day, the Department of Mineral Resources said.

Natural gas production also increased slightly in November to a new all-time high of nearly 1.67 billion cubic feet per day.

“That is really quite a surprise,” Director Lynn Helms said.

But with the price for a barrel of North Dakota sweet crude at $20 on Friday, a $6.50 drop since Jan. 1 and the lowest rate since March 2002, Helms said he expects to see further cuts in oil activity.

Operators already have reduced the number of drilling rigs in North Dakota lower than planned for 2016, Helms said. The state had 49 rigs on Friday, the lowest since August 2009. Helms predicts the rig count could go as low as 30 if oil stays at current prices.

Applications for drilling permits have fallen off in North Dakota, with the state issuing 95 permits in December, a figure not seen since 2010.

“That indicates that there is decreasing optimism about short-term oil prices. Companies are looking at 2016 and saying not until the very end of the year, if then,” Helms said.

Helms, who chooses a theme for his monthly updates with reporters, compared the current state of the Bakken to lyrics of the Jackson Browne song “Running on Empty.”

“Quite honestly, we’re down in the bottom of the bottom of the tank in terms of cash flow and capital to maintain activity in the state of North Dakota,” Helms said.

Helms said he learned this week that a third Bakken operator is likely going to file for bankruptcy next week. Samson Resources and American Eagle Energy already have filed for bankruptcy, and Helms said he thinks four or five more Bakken operators could “run to the end of their financial rope” by the end of the year if prices don’t improve.

But investors are showing long-term optimism about oil prices by acquiring oil wells that Bakken operators are putting up for sale.

“As soon as wells are going on the market, there are buyers lining up for them,” Helms said.

While the rest of the state saw a drop in rig count, Fort Berthold saw an increase from nine rigs to 11. Helms said tribal and federal leases require a new well to be drilled every 90 days.

“There’s a commitment there that forces drilling activity regardless of price or regardless of economics,” Helms said.

The reservation had a slight increase in oil production in November to 199,962 barrels per day, or about 17 percent of the state’s overall production.

Natural gas flaring increased from 14 percent to 16 percent in November. The volume of gas flared was nearly 266 million cubic feet per day, an increase of 29 million cubic feet per day since October.

Helms said much of the increase was due to mechanical problems at the Hess Corp. natural gas processing plant in Tioga that caused additional flaring.

Hydraulic fracturing crews completed 26 wells in November, down from 43 well completions in October. At the end of November, the state had 969 wells that were drilled but waiting on fracking crews.

About 52 percent of Bakken crude was transported by pipeline in November, with 41 percent transported by rail, said the North Dakota Pipeline Authority.

While oil boom has slowed, births still booming

Vicky Wiebe, owner of Tiny Toes in downtown Williston, N.D., brings her daughter, Kaelynn, to work with her on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. Kaelynn was one of a record 882 babies born in Williston in 2015. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

Vicky Wiebe, owner of Tiny Toes in downtown Williston, N.D., brings her daughter, Kaelynn, to work with her on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. Kaelynn was one of a record 882 babies born in Williston in 2015. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

WILLISTON, N.D. – A baby boom continued in North Dakota’s Oil Patch in 2015 even as falling oil prices prompted layoffs and workers leaving the area.

Hospitals in Williston and Minot each reported a record number of deliveries last year, and Dickinson had the most births in one year since the 1980s oil boom.

“We have not slowed down with the oil going down,” said Leona Lambert, who oversees OB services for Mercy Medical Center in Williston.

Williston had a record 882 births in 2015, up from 804 in 2014.

Vicky Wiebe, who became a new mom in Williston last year, said the numbers show that many workers who relocated their families to North Dakota have decided to stay despite the recent downturn.

“The workers that are up here are the ones that are staying here,” said Wiebe, whose family moved to Williston from Texas in 2012.

Trinity Hospital in Minot reported a record number of deliveries in 2015, but it was a smaller increase than in recent years.

The hospital recorded 1,716 deliveries in 2015, up three from 2014. Some of the deliveries involved multiple births, putting the total number of babies born in 2015 at 1,732.

Women’s and Children’s Services Director Lorrie Antos said the smaller increase last year may indicate the pace of growth may has leveled off.

In Dickinson, CHI St. Joseph’s reported 682 births in 2015, up from 611 in 2014. Births have more than doubled in Dickinson since 2007.

Watford City residents likely accounted for a number of the births in Williston and Dickinson because the McKenzie County hospital doesn’t deliver babies. But there are no statistics available for Watford City births.

“My perception is our births are up appreciably,” said Dan Kelly, CEO of McKenzie County Healthcare Systems. “I just don’t have a number.”

Community members have been asking for birthing services in Watford City, Kelly said. A new medical facility under construction there is designed to add space for deliveries, but hospital officials will continue to monitor the needs between now and when the building opens in 2018, Kelly said.

“Whether we implement that immediately or not will just depends on how the market continues to shift,” Kelly said.

In Williston, births are expected to stay high this year, but may not beat the 2015 record, Lambert said. Mercy Medical Center had several months in 2015 with 70 to 80 births. In 2016, hospital staff anticipate births will be in the high 60s to 70s each month, Lambert said.

“That’s still a lot,” she said.

The high number of births in Williston sparked a business idea for Wiebe. After struggling to find an Easter dress for her daughter, Kaelynn, Wiebe decided to open a baby clothing store in downtown Williston.

The shop, Tiny Toes, which opened in November, has been busy with only word-of-mouth advertising, she said.

Her husband Arnold, who works for a trucking company that hauls water for the oil industry, saw work slow down last summer. But he was able to find construction work until trucking picked back up again, Wiebe said.

The family, who owns a house in Williston, plans make Williston their home long term.

“Even with the town slowing down, this town is still growing,” Wiebe said.

 

Mega oil well unit will see drilling until at least 2019

BISMARCK – The company developing a massive drilling unit in Dunn County said Wednesday it plans to keep drilling until at least 2019 to develop 60 more wells.

Burlington Resources, a subsidiary of ConocoPhillips, said developing the Corral Creek-Bakken Unit has taken longer than anticipated because the company added more wells and cut one drilling rig because of low oil prices.

The Department of Mineral Resources Oil and Gas Division held a hearing Wednesday to review the unit, approved by the North Dakota Industrial Commission four years ago. At the time, commissioners were told that developing the 30,000-acre unit that includes Little Missouri State Park would take 3½ years.

Current plans call for drilling through mid-2019, but oil prices could affect the timing, Jonathan Luk, a representative for ConocoPhillips, said during the hearing in Bismarck.

The biggest change from four years ago is that the company anticipated drilling primarily in the Bakken formation, but has since added many wells in the upper Three Forks, Luk said.

The original plan called for 81 wells in addition to 12 wells that were already drilled in the unit. To date, the unit has 120 producing wells, 14 wells that are drilled or partially drilled and ConocoPhillips plans to add 60 more, Luk said.

“The increased well count is really driven by the commerciality of the upper Three Forks formation,” Luk said.

Original plans called for three drilling rigs to operate in the unit. In April 2015, that dropped to two rigs due to falling oil prices, Luk said.

More recently, the company has had just one rig in the unit due to unforeseen problems encountered while drilling four wells in the north part of the unit, Luk said. The company is still evaluating its options with that rig, but plans to bring it back this year, Luk said.

ConocoPhillips plans to have hydraulic fracturing crews complete wells in a timely manner, rather than delay well completions until oil prices recover, Luk said.

The North Dakota Industrial Commission has the option of removing undeveloped tracts within the unit. The Department of Mineral Resources will prepare an order for the full Industrial Commission to review, said spokeswoman Alison Ritter.

Royalty owner David Schwalbe, who was among those who opposed developing the area as a large unit, was the only member of the public who spoke at the hearing.

“Why are there so few rigs working when the rigs are available? They’re stacked out all over,” Schwalbe asked.

Luk said the company can’t operate at the same pace it did when oil was $85 or $90 a barrel.

“We also have responsibility to the working interest owners to ensure we’re protecting their investment as well,” Luk said.

Stakeholders who opposed developing the area as a unit argued it would delay the development of their minerals and limit the rights of landowners.

Schwalbe has said he has questions about the fairness of the royalty distribution, but those questions were not allowed under the scope of Wednesday’s hearing. Schwalbe urged the commission to make the unit as fair as possible to everyone involved.

“The unit is here. It’s our unit. As a stakeholder, I have an interest in this. I want to see this thing developed the best way possible,” he said.

Developing the area as a unit allowed ConocoPhillips to minimize the impact to the land, including the state park, maximize how much oil will be recovered and limit truck traffic in the area, Luk said.

The company said its well pads, access roads and other facilities take up 1.4 percent of the surface land within the unit.

Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources, questioned why some wells were changed from the original proposal to be located along Highway 22.

Luk said rugged terrain in the unit was the main factor that affected where wells were located, and the locations along the highway were safer places to drill.

Nearly all of the natural gas produced within the unit will be captured as additional natural gas processing plants are brought online in that region this year, Luk said. Currently, ConocoPhillips is flaring 9 percent of natural gas in the unit and 12.7 percent of gas produced statewide, he said.

 

Farmer says pipeline company must ‘do something better’ after second spill

Williams County farmer Ron Sylte visits the site of a saltwater pipeline leak Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, in a durum field that he farms. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

Williams County farmer Ron Sylte visits the site of a saltwater pipeline leak Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, in a durum field that he farms. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

WILLISTON, N.D. – The same man affected a year ago by the state’s largest pipeline spill discovered Monday that land he rents is now the site of a new cleanup operation.

Williams County farmer Ron Sylte drove by a field where he grows durum to find crews excavating contaminated soil after a pipeline owned by Meadowlark Midstream leaked 187 barrels, or 7,854 gallons, of saltwater last week.

The spill occurred almost exactly a year after the same company, a subsidiary of Summit Midstream, discovered a spill of nearly 3 million gallons on land Sylte owns about 1½ miles north.

“I don’t see that they have a good pipe in the ground,” Sylte said. “If they don’t do something better than what they have, they’re going to have more of these.”

State regulators also are concerned to see a second leak on the same pipeline system a year later and are doing a thorough investigation, said Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources.

“After the first failure, we increased our presence and monitoring and observation of the area, and we’ll probably want to take that up another notch,” Helms said Monday.

Sylte, who has been working with the company for a year as it continues to clean up last year’s spill near Blacktail Creek, said he didn’t learn about the latest spill until he saw crews in the field Monday. The spill occurred Thursday afternoon and was reported to state officials on Friday.

“I was just disappointed they didn’t call me last Friday,” said Sylte, who has farmed that land north of Williston since 1981. “At least let me know what’s going on.”

The company did notify the out-of-state landowner, Sylte said, but he didn’t know when.

Saltwater is a briny waste byproduct of oil development that is transported through pipelines to a disposal site.

In the latest spill, crews shut down the pipeline within 15 minutes of discovering a problem with the line, a Summit spokesman said. The quick detection was a result of investments in a SCADA system, which stands for supervisory control and data acquisition, that gathers information on the pipeline every five minutes to identify possible leaks and changes in pressure, the spokesman said.

A spill report says the Summit Operations Communications Center shut down the pipeline on Thursday after being notified through its leak detection system of a deviation in pipeline flow and pressure. Field staff then went to the area, walked the pipeline system and confirmed the pipeline leak at 3:36 p.m., the report states.

Helms said investigators have not yet verified that the pipeline was shut down within 15 minutes.

In last year’s spill, state regulators allege the pipeline had been leaking for more than three months before it was discovered. That spill remains under investigation by the North Dakota Industrial Commission, the North Dakota Department of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Although the latest spill was discovered more quickly, that didn’t mean a lot to Sylte on Monday.

“It doesn’t really increase my faith in them at all,” Sylte said.

Cleanup crews were wrapping up the excavation work late Monday and beginning to haul contaminated soil to a landfill, said Bill Suess, spill investigation program manager for the North Dakota Department of Health.

The latest spill did not contaminate any surface water and so far officials have not detected groundwater contamination, Suess said.

After the excavation is complete and tests confirm that the contamination has been removed, crews will replace the soil that was removed. The land will be monitored for at least one year, if not longer, to see if vegetation will grow, Suess said.

“We won’t know until this summer,” Sylte said.