September 2021, Vol. 248, No. 9

Editor's Notebook

Northern Demand not Isolated

By Michael Reed, Editor-in-Chief

Say what you will about the state of the industry, customers are still clamoring for natural gas in their homes and businesses, and with that need for expansion comes new pipeline projects.  

Montana-Dakota Utilities (MDU) and WBI Energy are in the process of just such a build-out in eastern North Dakota, where customer contracts have exceeded the volume of gas that can be delivered on an uninterrupted basis.  

To fulfill MDU’s growing need for supply, which now includes 10 MMcf/d of firm supply in two locations, WBI Energy will construct a 60-mile, 12-inch natural gas pipeline expansion and ancillary facilities to the city of Wahpeton. The new pipeline is expected to be under construction in early 2024 and have the additional pipeline in service in late 2024.  

While this may seem like a small amount of infrastructure to some in the industry, particularly  as a backdrop to some recently canceled projects such as Keystone XL or the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, this growth in North Dakota is far from being an isolated occurrence.  

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently released data boosting support for similar expansion efforts when it bumped up its forecasts for the remainder of 2021. Among residential and commercial users, consumption is expected to grow 1.1 Bcf/d over 2020, while industrial consumption will climb 1.4 Bcf/d.   

The North Dakota project, in addition to expanding service to the city of  Wahpeton will extend natural gas availability to the city  of Kindred, at the request of city officials and residents.  

“We have new housing developments and commercial properties interested in building in Kindred,” said Kindred Mayor Jason DuBord. “Many city residents, businesses, ag processors and surrounding property owners will benefit greatly from access to a firm natural gas supply.”  

And so the story goes. The availability of natural gas remains undeniably linked to growth both among residential and agricultural properties, and people simply prefer it for its cost, comparative cleanliness and several other factors that you also already know. Obviously, that requires more infrastructure and more pipelines.  

Producers, too, have reinforced the need for added capacity by committing to long-term transportation contracts, according to WBI, and both state and federal officials have been supportive of the project for both its environmental and economic benefits.  

“WBI Energy transports more than 50% of the natural gas produced from the Bakken, and this project will bring WBI’s total pipeline system capacity to more than 2.4 billion cubic feet per day,” said David L. Goodin, president and CEO of MDU Resources. “This while reducing natural gas flaring in the region by allowing producers to move more gas to market.”   

Federal regulators approved the pipeline in June, in a move state officials said will reduce the wasteful flaring of excess gas and increase state tax revenues by millions of dollars annually by allowing more oil drilling in the area.  

The North Bakken Expansion project as a whole, which includes this construction of 60 miles of 20-inch pipeline, as well as a new compressor station and additional associated infrastructure, got underway in July and could be on line by the end of the year.  

That expansion effort will provide an additional 250 MMcf/d of natural gas capacity to operators in the region. It will connect WBI Energy’s Tioga Compressor Station near Tioga, with Northern Border Pipeline Company’s mainline at a new interconnection point south of Watford City.  

“Producers have reinforced their need for this additional capacity by committing to long-term transportation contracts with WBI,” Goodin said “We appreciate the support from state and federal officials who helped elevate the significance of this project for both its environmental and economic benefits.”  

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