North Dakota regulators OK pipeline upgrade, new gas plant

North Dakota regulators have approved two oil and gas projects in an effort to improve pipeline safety, meet demand for diesel fuel and reduce the wasteful flaring of excess natural gas.

The state's Public Service Commission on Wednesday approved a project by Cenex Pipeline to upgrade a portion of a refined fuels pipeline in northwest North Dakota, the Bismarck Tribune reported . The company still needs to get landowners easements along about 22 percent of the route.

Commissioners also approved a new gas processing plant, the Arrow Bear Den Gas Processing Plant II near Watford City, which would be built near an existing gas plant but operate independently. It'll increase processing capacity for more natural gas in the core of the Bakken oil fields.

Commission Chairman Randy Christmann said the projects combined amount to more than $250 million in economic activity for North Dakota.

The pipeline owned by Cenex moves refined fuels from Laurel, Montana, to Fargo. The company has proposed upgrading 182 miles of the almost 60-year-old pipeline from Sidney, Montana, to Minot.

CHS spokesman Bryan Brignac said the company is engaged in "productive discussions" with landowners to get the easements. The company cannot begin construction in areas where easement agreements haven't been signed.

Attorney Derrick Braaten is representing several landowners who haven't signed agreements yet. Braaten said the commission's approval of the project is "problematic" without more voluntary easements. He said it "puts a significant amount of pressure on landowners."

The other project approved the gas processing plant near Watford City to process up to 120 million cubic feet of natural gas per day. A smaller plant that processes 30 million cubic feet per day already operates at the same location.

It'll soon process gas from the Fort Berthold Reservation, where natural gas flaring rates have been higher than the rest of the state.

Because of inadequate infrastructure, North Dakota oil companies flared, or burned off, about 310 million cubic feet of natural gas per day in January


Information from: Bismarck Tribune,