The North Dakota Public Service Commission has approved a siting permit for the Wild Basin Gas Plant six miles northeast of Watford City in McKenzie County.
Oasis Midstream Services LLC operates their current Wild Basin Gas Plant and Crude Handling Facility which is now able to process 80 million standard cubic feet per day of gas and stabilize up to 60,000 barrels of crude oil per day. Oasis sought a permit to increase the capacity of the facility to process 280 million standard cubic feet per day of gas, stabilize up to 80,000 barrels of crude oil per day and add an additional 150,000 barrel crude oil storage tank. The expansion brings the facility above the threshold requiring Public Service Commission siting approval.
“This gas is a by-product of the oil industry. It will either be wasted by flaring it into the atmosphere or it will be processed into a usable, value-added product,” said Commission Chairman Randy Christmann. “This processing plant is one of the biggest steps ever taken in North Dakota to decrease flaring and increase revenues for mineral owners, producers and taxing authorities.”
Estimated cost of the entire expansion project is $150 million.
The Administrative Rules Committee of the ND Legislature has finished their review of two sets of rule packages for future wind projects and ensure they are removed and reclaimed when no longer useful. The rules become effective July 1, 2017.
“A half century ago our ancestors made a commitment to ensure that our coal mines would be reclaimed when the prairie became quiet again,” said Commission Chairman Randy Christmann. “These new rules demonstrate a renewed commitment by our generation to ensure that North Dakota’s beautiful landscape will be returned to its splendor when these giant wind turbines reach the end of their usefulness.”
The rule changes were approved by the PSC in early May and sent to the Administrative Rules Committee for final review.
The federal Office of Surface Mining recently released its annual evaluations of the Public Service Commission’s coal regulatory program and the abandoned mine lands program. These evaluations are done annually to assure that the programs are being implemented consistent with the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) of 1977.
“The complimentary language in these reviews emphasizes the outstanding work our Abandoned Mine Lands and Reclamation teams do throughout the year,” said Commissioner Randy Christmann who holds the coal mining, reclamation, and abandoned mine lands portfolio. “Their efforts are assuring that North Dakota’s landscape will be safe, productive and beautiful for future generations.”
Regarding the coal regulatory program for current mining operations, the evaluation indicated that “North Dakota has an effective program with no issues in need of corrective action. The Reclamation Division carries out its duties using the appropriate technical expertise and with a high level of professionalism.”
The evaluation of the abandoned mine lands program said, “the state administers an excellent program in full compliance with their approved plan.” They also state that the program “met the goals of abating hazards and improving site conditions at all projects conducted. These projects have reduced the likelihood of death or injury to property owners and the public.”
The PSC’s abandoned mine reclamation program aims to eliminate hazards related to coal mining that was conducted before the enactment of reclamation laws in the 1970’s. The program is funded by a fee that is collected on all active coal mining operations. PSC staff designs and manages projects each year and contacts the work through a competitive bidding process.
Both programs were headed by Jim Deutsch, who retired at the end of November after 42 years with the Public Service Commission. The Commission appreciates his dedicated efforts and achievements that are obvious in these evaluations. Dean Moos, former Assistant Director in the Reclamation Division, has taken over as director as of December 1.
Licensed grain storage in North Dakota has increased more than 4.5 percent from approximately 451 million bushels of capacity in 2015 to 471 million bushels currently, according to the North Dakota Public Service Commission. This does not include private, on-farm grain storage which is not tracked by the PSC.
“Even in these times of depressed commodity prices, our grain industry has really stepped up by adding valuable new storage,” said Commissioner Randy Christmann. “As our agriculture producers continue to increase their ability to grow food and fuel for the world, we continue to benefit from additional storage options.”
The Commission licenses 383 grain warehouses and 81 roving grain buyers. North Dakota licensed public grain warehouses average 1,229,500 bushels of storage capacity, more than double the average capacity in 2000. One hundred years ago the state had more than 2,000 licensed elevators, averaging only 30,000 bushels of capacity for a total licensed capacity of approximately 60 million bushels.
The federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement has given its 2016 Small Project Award to the North Dakota Public Service Commission’s Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Program. The Commission’s AML Program is receiving the award for the exceptional work done at the Halleck Mine approximately five miles north of Bowman.
The Halleck Mine was an underground mine with a coal seam that was 30-40 feet thick and the top of it was only 10-50 feet below grade. It operated from about 1919 to 1944. Sinkholes have been common in the area and were known to be near roads and a 30-inch diameter high-pressure natural gas pipeline. In 2014 emergency repairs were completed due to several large sinkholes that severed a fiber optic telecommunications cable and were dangerously close to the pipeline.
This reclamation project involved drilling and grouting to locate and fill underground voids near public roads and near the natural gas pipeline. Extra precautions were taken during the procedure to prevent damaging the pipeline while making certain the voids were filled.
“Because of the reclamation fee being paid by current mine operations, the PSC is able to repair some of these sites that were abandoned decades ago,” said Commissioner Randy Christmann, who holds the coal mining, reclamation and AML portfolios. “It allows us to protect our infrastructure and our citizens without using taxpayer dollars. This was a particularly challenging project and our team did a great job.”
The Commission’s AML Program is in place to eliminate dangerous situations that resulted from mining activities which occurred before the 1977 federal reclamation act. The Commission receives funds for the program from a federal reclamation fee that is collected on all mined coal.