Fulfilling North Dakota's economic destiny relies on adding value to energy products and finding markets for the industry's byproducts, Gov. Jack Dalrymple and members of the state's congressional delegation say.
Dalrymple and Sens. John Hoeven, Heidi Heitkamp and U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer spoke Tuesday at the eighth annual Great Plains and EmPower ND Energy Conference at Bismarck State College. The conference features energy policymakers, researchers, entrepreneurs and industry leaders.
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"Value-added is the future of our state economy," the Republican governor told the more than 200 people in attendance.
About one-third of the natural gas produced in North Dakota is burned off, or flared, as an unwanted byproduct of oil production due to a lack of infrastructure.
"We are continuing to work on our flaring problem, and I call it a 'problem," Dalrymple said. The best way to halt the wasteful burning of natural gas is "to add financial value to that surplus."
Dalrymple said steps are being taken to curb flaring, pointing to a proposed $4 billion factory in North Dakota that would convert ethane from natural gas into a material used for plastics. He also cited a proposed $3 billion plant in eastern North Dakota that would convert natural gas into fertilizer.
Cramer, a Republican, applauded industry for creating "a solution and an opportunity to a challenge."
"We're not just going to produce these commodities, we're going to add value," Hoeven, North Dakota's Republican Senator, told the audience. "Value -added is going to bring in more and more business."
Coal, a cornerstone of North Dakota's economy for decades, powers seven electric power plants in North Dakota. The electric factories also produce carbon dioxide, which is widely blamed for global warming.
Heitkamp, a pro-coal Democrat, said CO2 must be considered "as something of value" like it is in Canada, where the gas from a synthetic natural gas plant in western is piped to oil fields in southern Saskatchewan. There, it's pumped underground to force oil to the surface.
Heitkamp said she hopes CO2 from power plants can be pumped underground to enhance oil recovery in the already rich Bakken and Three Forks formations.