North Dakota's production of natural gas is expect to grow nearly sixfold by 2025, making the state a major player in U.S. market, according to report released Wednesday.

The report by Bentek Energy for the North Dakota Pipeline Authority estimated that current production of 536 million cubic feet of gas per day will balloon to 3.1 billion cubic feet per day by 2025.

That would exceed by 50 percent all the natural gas used in Minnesota on a January day, according to a CenterPoint Energy analysis of federal energy data.

"These growth expectations will push the basin into a more leading role in supply the U.S. natural gas market," said the report.

Justin Kringstad, director of the pipeline authority, said the study -- the first to assess the long-range potential for natural gas in the state -- shows that gas will represent an increasingly larger share of the output of wells, which are being drilled primarily for oil.

"It shows that the ratio of natural gas to oil will continue to increase as the wells age," he said.

North Dakota reported 6,954 producing wells in May, with an oil output of 639,000 barrels per day, making it the second largest oil-producing state in the nation after Texas.

The Bentek study estimated that oil production would grow to more than 2 million barrels of oil per day by 2025, in line with estimates by some others.

Unlike oil, which can be shipped by truck or rail, natural gas requires pipelines. The report said North Dakota will need to expand gathering lines and other infrastructure to market the natural gas. One of five wells now flares natural gas because of the lack of pipelines.

Kringstad said the state will have many opportunities for industries that process natural gas and natural gas liquids, which are used in petrochemicals and other products.

"There is a tremendous opportunity for value-added industry, whether petrochemicals, fertilizer or natural gas-fired electricity," he said. "The study confirms that natural gas will around for a long time."

The report said that North Dakota gas should benefit from future tightened supplies of Canadian natural gas, leaving space on interstate pipelines to market Williston Basin gas in Chicago and the Upper Midwest.

David Shaffer •673-7090