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Natural Gas

A technician checks gauges at a Whiting Petroleum natural gas processing plant. Photo courtesy of Whiting Petroleum.

A technician checks gauges at a Whiting Petroleum natural gas processing plant. Photo courtesy of Whiting Petroleum.

North Dakota has abundant resources in natural gas. Natural gas in North Dakota is co-produced with oil wells, which means that when an oil well is drilled, natural gas rises to the surface along with the oil. North Dakota companies use natural gas as a resource for producing electricity and also exports processed natural gas. The North Dakota Pipeline Authority released a natural gas forecast that estimates North Dakota could be producing 2.7 – 3.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas each day in the early 2030s. This is up from 2014 natural gas production of roughly 1.5 billion cubic feet per day.

For more information about petroleum production in North Dakota, visit the Great Plains Energy Corridor Petroleum info page.

Natural Gas-fired Electricity

North Dakota is home to three natural gas-fired peaking plants. Peaking plants provide power generation companies with higher-cost, rapid response to regional “peaks” in the demand for electricity. The additional generating capacity is used in extreme weather conditions when demand for electricity exceeds the capacity of baseload facilities. They can be powered up from stand- by status to full load very quickly and in some cases can be operated from a remote site. In North Dakota, the peaking plants are fueled by either natural gas or fuel oil. (The fuel oil peaking plant is run by Otter Tail Power Company – it has two fuel oil combustion turbines in Jamestown, N.D., that have a total capacity of 42.1 MW).

Basin Electric Power Cooperative began construction on two natural gas-fired peaking stations in 2012 to help provide much-needed electrical stability in western North Dakota.

Lonesome Creek Station, located west of Watford City, N.D., started commercial operation in December 2013. The cooperative has since added two more units to the plant site, bringing Lonesome Creek Station’s total generation capacity to 135 megawatts. Basin Electric is currently seeking permits to construct 90 megawatts of additional generating capacity at the site.

Pioneer Generation Station, located northwest of Williston, N.D., started commercial operation in September 2013. The cooperative has since added two more units, bringing the station’s total generation to 135 megawatts. Basin Electric is planning to construct an additional 112 megawatts of generation at the site.

Both stations employ General Electric LM 6000 combustion turbine generators. However, the planned additional power coming from the Pioneer Generation Station site is slated to be generated using reciprocating engines.

Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. has an 88 MW natural gas-fired unit, Heskett 3, located next to its coal-based Heskett Station near Mandan, N.D. The unit uses a General Electric 7EA combustion turbine. It went online in 2014.

Natural Gas Processing

North Dakota currently has 23 natural gas processing plants operating in western North Dakota, and other new facilities are under construction. Since 2010, natural gas processing capacity in North Dakota has grown nearly 170 percent, increasing from 500 MMCFD to 1,344 MMCFD at year-end 2014.

A challenge of the petroleum industry is capturing the natural gas co-produced with oil production. The N.D. Industrial Commission issued guidance in 2014 that established goals to reduce the flared volume of gas (Order 24665). Those gas capture goals are:

74% October 1, 2014 through December 31, 2014

77% January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2015

85% January 1, 2016 through September 30, 2020

90% beginning October 1, 2020

95% future potential

Download the Great Plains Energy Corridor Annual Report for a chart of all the natural gas processing plants in North Dakota.

Liquefied Natural Gas

The state’s first liquefied natural gas plant is near Tioga. Liquefied natural gas is natural gas that has been converted to a liquid form for easier storage and transportation.