Wyden sees North Dakota oil, gas, other energy activity first-hand

This article was updated Sept. 11 and later corrected Sept. 16.

US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ronald L. Wyden (D-Ore.) saw more than oil and gas operations when he visited North Dakota Sept. 6-7 for an up-close look at energy activity in the state.

His itinerary, which the office of committee member John Hoeven (R-ND) helped arrange, included an ethanol biorefinery with a unique partnership with a coal-fired power plant, and a model mined-land reclamation site.

The chairman also visited Whiting Petroleum Corp.’s Bakken shale oil production operations and Oneok Partners LP’s Garden Creek natural gas processing plant. Wyden also was scheduled to visit energy development sites around Watford City on Sept. 7.

“I’m open to the idea that energy-producing states like North Dakota should be given a wide berth when it comes to regulating production, as long as there is a federal backstop that ensures every state meets minimum federal standards,” Wyden said following the tour.

The federal government can help ensure there is transparency for local communities, especially when it comes to knowing when spills occur and what’s in the hydraulic fracturing fluids companies use, he continued.

“I also heard from community leaders who are concerned that roads and pipes have not kept up with the pace of development there, and I’m interested in finding ways to improve the infrastructure to support communities impacted by energy production,” Wyden said.

Hoeven said he was trying to demonstrate the state’s success in the last 10 years by deploying new technologies and using a comprehensive energy development approach.

“Today, we’re the nation’s second-largest oil and gas producing state, we contribute 10% of America’s crude oil, and we continue to grow our energy economy across the board,” he said. “That’s why we wanted Sen. Wyden to see first-hand how North Dakota’s approach to energy development over the past decade is helping our state develop all of its energy resources in tandem with good environmental stewardship.

“We can do the same for our country and achieve true North American energy security within 5-7 years with a states-first approach in Washington,” Hoeven maintained.

His office said the two senators toured Great River Energy’s Blue Flint ethanol plant, which produces 65 million gpd, and adjoins GRE’s Coal Creek power plant on Sept. 6. They then visited Reclamation Hill, a former mine restored at a $20,000/acre cost to productive crop land.

Wyden and Hoeven went to Whiting’s regional headquarters for a presentation on the region’s shale formations by consulting geologist Kathy Neset, and a tour of a Whiting oil rig to review a typical, precision hydraulic fracturing operation. The Denver-based independent producer holds one of the largest acreage positions in the Bakken, and is North Dakota’s second largest oil producer, Hoeven’s office said.

It said the two federal lawmakers then visited Oneok Partners’ gas processing plant, where the company has mounted a major push to reduce flaring and capture more of the accompanying gas produced during oil production. The MLP plans to invest $2.5-2.6 billion through 2015 for Williston basin projects, which will increase its processing capacity there to 610 MMcfd and help reduce flaring.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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