Friday, May 16, 2014

New LNG Plant in North Dakota will Supply Oil and Gas Producers

A new natural gas liquefaction plant is slated to come online this summer in North Dakota to reduce the flaring of gas in the Bakken Formation and provide fuel for Bakken oil and gas operations. The developer, Prairie Companies LLC subsidiary North Dakota LNG, announced earlier this month that the plant would provide an initial 10,000 gallons per day (gal/d) of liquefied natural gas (LNG), and could expand to 66,000 gal/d. Assuming a 10% processing loss, the plant would take in a maximum of 6 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d) once expanded. In 2012, North Dakota vented and flared 218 MMcf/d of natural gas because of record high oil production and insufficient pipeline takeaway capacity for natural gas produced as a byproduct.

Hess Corporation will supply the natural gas for liquefaction at Prairie's Tioga natural gas processing location. After the LNG is produced, it will be sent via truck to storage sites at drilling locations, where – once regasified – it can be used to power rigs and hydraulic fracturing operations as well as LNG vehicles. LNG itself cannot burn; in its liquefied state, its temperature is minus-260 degrees Fahrenheit. However, as a liquid, it takes up only 1/600th of its volume as a gas, so LNG is an excellent form to store or transport natural gas. Currently, most drilling operations run on diesel, and converting to natural gas provides potentially significant cost savings given the current differential between diesel and natural gas prices. In 2012, EIA estimated that nationally oil and gas companies consumed more than 5 million gal/d of diesel in their operations, representing a significant expense.

While conversion to natural gas might not be possible in many cases, in the past few years, several companies have developed and are marketing technologies that would allow drilling rigs and fracturing pumps to run in both dual fueled and or single fueled modes.

Although the liquefaction plant will be the first LNG project in the Bakken, some producers have begun using natural gas to power their operations, citing cost savings, access to natural gas, and environmental benefits. Statoil uses compressed natural gas (CNG) to fuel some of its drilling equipment. The natural gas is produced in the Bakken and compressed using General Electric's CNG in a Box system.

Additionally, outside of the Bakken, other companies have successfully used natural gas to power drilling operations. In 2012, Seneca Resources and Ensign Drilling installed GE LNG fired engines on drilling rigs in the Marcellus Shale. Apache, Halliburton, and Schlumberger have successfully used CNG and LNG to power hydraulic fracturing operations in the Granite Wash formation in Oklahoma.

Some of these companies have estimated fuel savings on the order of 60% to 70% compared to diesel, as well as payback on the conversion investment in about a year. The basic economics that have driven the recent interest in converting or manufacturing more heavy duty trucks to run on LNG are driving some of the interest in converting to natural gas for fueling stationary oil and gas operations.

Posted courtesy of the EIA

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