Innovation of byproducts, the next step for ND energy
This is the opinion of The Drill’s Editorial Board.
The price of oil is always going to fluctuate. There’s no getting around that. So, what can North Dakota do to ensure it sustains a profitable and growing energy market, even with uncertain oil prices?
The solution starts by listening to new ideas and allowing businesses to be innovative.
More and more, it appears that North Dakota’s energy boom in the coming years will center around the addition of byproducts and value-added products.
Dakota Prairie Refining, in the final stages of construction and testing west of Dickinson, N.D., will not only refine oil into diesel fuel. It’ll be pulling out naphtha, atmospheric bottoms and natural gas to be used throughout the world in hundreds — perhaps thousands — of different products.
Last October, Gov. Jack Dalrymple announced the development of a manufacturing plant that will convert ethane — a byproduct of natural gas processing — into polyethylene used for consumer and industrial plastics. The company, Badlands NGL, plans to invest $4 billion in facilities into North Dakota. Dalrymple called it the largest private investment in state history.
On the cover of The Drill this month, we have a feature about the latest in a group of innovators trying to tap into the Bakken’s potential.
B&A Global Energy, an Oklahoma-based company, wants to bring its gas-capturing technology straight to North Dakota oil well sites and turn methane gas currently being flared off during the hydraulic fracturing process into liquefied natural gas (LNG). The LNG fuel would, at first, likely be exported from the state, but the company says it has long-term plans that include fueling stations in the northern states.
It’s a big idea, but it also sounds like a solution our state should pay attention to.
While there are a number of different companies trying to capture natural gas and sell it on the open market, it’s hard to discount innovative companies who want to not only capture that natural gas but create more byproducts from it, thereby creating jobs and improving North Dakota’s economy.
A couple of years ago, when it became clear that oil was here to stay, the value of byproducts became known. Now, that value is increasing.
Though prices have been nearly cut in half, no one at major oil companies in North Dakota seems to have hit the panic button just yet. Still, if oil prices linger below $60 a barrel, it stands to reason that North Dakota needs to start looking into how to get the best bang for its buck from wells that have already been drilled.
North Dakota’s energy story can be about more than just oil, coal and flaring of natural gas.
Innovation can be the next chapter in that story.