The Bismarck Tribune reported the North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC) this week approved the construction of two natural gas projects; a processing plant along the North Dakota-Montana border and a pipeline in Williams and Mountrail counties.
Outrigger Energy II’s Bill Sanderson Gas Processing Plant, west of Williston, will be able to handle up to 250 million cubic feet of gas per day.
While some officials and activists have called for new oil and gas projects to be put on hold across the country, the PSC’s forward-leaning strategy on infrastructure investment is key to maintaining American energy dominance and ensuring the sector is well-positioned once this pandemic passes. Further, energy infrastructure projects like the processing plant and pipeline are capital-intensive, shovel-ready jobs that support hundreds of high-skilled jobs, create new economic opportunities for the communities around them, and support new streams of tax revenue for state and local use. The Tribune noted Commissioner Randy Christmann said that during the last oil downturn in 2015, “a lot of the players responded by investing into long-term infrastructure that really paid off down the road.”
In addition, these projects are key to reducing flaring – burning off excess natural gas that is surfaced during oil drilling. With record oil production in the Bakken in recent years, flaring peaked at 24% of all gas produced at one point last summer. Key natural gas projects – like the two approved this week – are critical to lowering flaring levels, and instead being able to transport and use that natural gas for consumers in need. As the Tribune notes:
Gas processing plants remove natural gas liquids such as ethane, propane and butane from raw gas extracted from oil wells. Once processed, the gas is ready for use in power generation, home heating and other applications.
These projects are important to supporting the growing use of natural gas-fired electricity generation – which has been lauded not only for its reliability and affordability, but also environmental benefits.