A North Dakota company is proposing a pipeline that could carry to Minnesota more than a quarter of the Bakken's growing natural gas production in 2016.
WBI Energy Inc. said the 400-mile pipeline would stretch from far western North Dakota to connect with Viking Gas Transmission Co.'s pipeline 15 miles northeast of Moorhead, Minn. Viking already brings natural gas from Canada into Minnesota and Wisconsin.
It is part of a broader effort by WBI and other companies to carry away more of North Dakota's natural gas bounty. About 28 percent of the state's growing gas output now is flared — or burned off at the wellhead — mostly because of a lack of pipeline capacity.
In April, ONEOK Partners, based in Tulsa, said it had completed a 600-mile pipeline to carry natural gas liquids from the Williston Basin to northern Colorado.
WBI, a unit of publicly traded MDU Resources Group of Bismarck, said its proposed natural gas pipeline costing up to $700 million would satisfy growing demand in eastern North Dakota and Minnesota. The company also operates a smaller, 1970s-era gas pipeline roughly parallel to the proposed one, but it terminates near Valley City, N.D., 60 miles west of Fargo.
"In the Bakken and western North Dakota, you have got rapidly growing natural gas production that is occurring with the oil production," Tim Rasmussen, a spokesman for MDU Resources, said Friday. "All indications show that it is going to grow even more, and then you have growing residential, commercial and industrial demand in eastern North Dakota and Minnesota markets. So it is kind of like the perfect situation."
WBI said the pipeline is initially designed to transport 400 million cubic feet per day of natural gas. North Dakota's current gas output is about 860 million cubic feet per day. When completed, the line would have the capacity to carry 28 percent of the state's 2016 projected output of 1.4 billion cubic feet per day, the company said.
Rasmussen said that in August the company will offer an open season, or sign-up period, for shippers to commit to using the pipeline. If shipper interest is strong, the capacity could be expanded to 500 million cubic feet per day, the company said. The company still must obtain permits and regulatory approval for the project.
WBI Energy CEO Steven Bietz said in a statement that the project would be the largest single pipeline construction project in the company's history. It would employ about 300 construction workers and take about six months to build, the company said.
Combined with WBI's other recent and ongoing projects, the pipeline would bring the company's Bakken-related investment to nearly $1 billion, Bietz said.