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Energy officials, northwestern leaders discuss supporting a natural gas pipeline to eastern North Dakota

Published: Oct. 29, 2021 at 5:17 PM CDT
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WILLISTON, N.D. (KFYR) - In a few years, experts predict that North Dakota will run out of natural gas storage capacity if more infrastructure isn’t created.

The state Legislature has heard proposals of how to increase that storage including creation of a pipeline that would bring natural gas to the eastern part of the state. On Friday, officials pitched the idea to leaders in northwestern North Dakota and how it would benefit them.

While oil production and rig counts have fluctuated during the pandemic, there has been one constant: the gas/oil ratio.

It continues to increase, and in a few years, it will be the reason why North Dakota will have more natural gas than it can transport through its current pipeline system.

Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority, told leaders in northwestern North Dakota that means oil production could take a hit.

“Five years ago, (producers) would have looked at this challenge and said ‘well we’ll increase flaring.’ That is not on the table anymore and in this equation, crude oil production would suffer,” said Kringstad.

As part of a solution, Kringstad said building a natural gas pipeline that goes east would buy them more time while providing up to 250 million cubic feet of natural gas to the red river valley. He added that some financial support will be needed by the legislature to help keep transport costs competitive with other systems.

Senators from the region said market data will be needed to make sure the pipeline is built to fit the demand.

“Maybe I’m trying to micromanage this too much, but it sounds to me like everybody is saying ‘we have this need out here. We don’t know what it is, but just sign a check for $350 million, we think that will work,’” said Sen. Brad Bekkedahl, R-Williston.

The appropriations committee is expected to recommend a $150 million contribution to the Legislature during the upcoming special session. Kringstad said the state would see a return on an initial investment since a pipeline would allow for additional oil production and oil tax revenue.

Kringstad said as many as five pipelines of that capacity would be needed for the state to grow or even maintain its oil production going forward.

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