A 900-mile natural gas pipeline is proposed to accommodate the Bakken Formation and the Williston Basin in efforts to assist with the increasing production of North Dakota natural gas and working to reduce flaring and venting, wherein gas is simply burned off or vented into the atmosphere.
Oneok recently announced plans for the proposed Elk Creek pipeline, which will have the capacity to transport nearly 240,000 barrels of natural gas liquids per day. In a statement, Terry Spencer, president and CEO of Oneok, said that constructing a new pipeline is “critical to meeting the needs of producers who are increasing production and are required to meet natural gas capture targets in the Williston Basin.”
Construction on the pipeline is expected to begin in February and projected to be completed by the end of 2019. However, the company is still waiting on the necessary approvals from regulatory agencies at the local, state and federal levels.
The Elk Creek pipeline, unlike the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, does not cross the states of North or South Dakota. Instead, the proposed pipeline begins in Sidney, Montana and pushes south into Wyoming, running alongside the Bakken NGL pipeline, then heading east and cutting through Colorado and Kansas, adjacent to the Overland Pass pipeline, and into Bushton, Kansas.
The North Dakota Pipeline Authority (NDPA) said introducing additional pipelines is necessary to manage the growing volumes of natural gas liquids and transporting them to processing plants. The NDPA estimates that approximately 400,000 barrels of natural gas, but 40,000 to 60,000 barrels a day are still moved by rail, due to insufficient pipeline capacity. According to the NDPA forecast, North Dakota’s production is expected to grow to one million barrels a day into the 2030s.
North Dakota and the oil industry leaders in the state are working to increase investments in industry infrastructure to reduce flaring, which has become a significant problem in the Williston Basin. In October alone, the industry, in total, flared more than 320 million cubic feet of natural gas per day.
Flaring has increased significantly in the United States because of increased oil production and rapid expansion, like the Bakken Formation, and flaring and venting continue in locations where local markets and gas transportation infrastructure are lacking, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Additional pipeline capacity helps to reduce flaring and proves to be a cost-effective and efficient transportation system. However, other infrastructure investments are necessary to reduce flaring. Some options include additional gathering pipelines and natural gas processing plants.