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Gas plant construction awaits PSC ruling

Posted 10/27/10 (Wed)

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

Construction of a gas processing facility north of Watford City will have to wait until spring. That is, unless the North Dakota Public Service Commission (NDPSC) approves the company’s application quickly like Bear Paw Energy, LLC, a subsidiary of ONEOK Partners, LP is pushing for.
The NDPSC held a public hearing in Watford City on Wednesday, Oct. 20 to determine whether Bear Paw can begin construction of its facility without any further delay.
“So far, actual construction of the facility has not started,” says Bill Delmar, Bear Paw Energy’s attorney. “We petitioned for a special hearing with hopes of getting the PSC’s approval quickly so that construction can begin this fall instead of waiting until next spring.”
With their current plant working at maximum capacity, Bear Paw is working to build a second facility adjacent to its current plant. The new Garden Creek Plant, a 100 million cubic foot per day natural gas processing facility is estimated to cost between $150 million and $210 million. The new plant which will be located northeast of Watford City will double the partnership’s natural gas processing capacity in the Williston Basin.
“The site is currently being graded and leveled in preparation for construction,” says Brad Borror, ONEOK company spokesperson. “Construction is set to begin as soon as all of the permits and certificates have been secured. We expect to have the plant completed in the fourth quarter of 2011.”
The goal of the PSC hearing is to determine what affect the plant will have on the area surrounding it.
“While we know that the energy is a great thing for the state and its residents, we also know that there can be adverse effects if every detail isn’t looked at,” said Kevin Kramer, PSC commissioner. “That is why we are here, to look out for the public and make sure that their interests are always covered.”
During the hearing, representatives for Bear Paw were asked to show proof that they had checked into all the possible problems that could occur, from run-off water to damage to the land, and even the impact that this new plant will have on the area’s agriculture interests.
“We purchased 80 acres of farm-land for the plant,” stated Russ Clark, Bear Paw Energy operations engineer. “The land was purchased from a lifelong farmer who spent a significant amount of time making his decision on whether or not to sell the land. His decision was based on how this plant will affect his surrounding farmland and other land in the area. I would like to think that his decision to sell the land shows that this plant will not have an adverse effect on the area.”
In addition to keeping natural gas from going to waste, the plant will also bring 25 permanent full-time jobs to McKenzie County once the plant is operational. Around 200 temporary workers will be needed during the construction phase of the project.
“We’ve taken all of the required steps to minimize the plant’s effect on the area, plus some added steps that will also help minimize the environmental effects of the plant,” adds Clark. “There is a great need for more gas processing, and with this plant, Bear Paw would be able to use the gas from around 200 wells instead of letting it go to waste.”
ONEOK Partners, LP is the largest independent operator of natural gas gathering and processing facilities in the Bakken Shale region, with a gathering system of more than 3,500 miles. In March 2009, it completed a $46 million expansion of its Grasslands natural gas processing facility in McKenzie County, and since 2007 the company has invested more than $80 million in new well connections and related infrastructure upgrades to existing natural gas gathering systems in the region.
The PSC will review the hearing and Bear Paw’s application before a decision is made, and Bear Paw Energy will continue to hold off on construction of the plant until their application has been approved.