Iraqi delegation seeks flaring solutions in the Bakken

By Patrick C. Miller | October 28, 2015

Officials with the Iraq Ministry of Oil and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) were in western North Dakota this week to study gas capture technologies and gas-powered electrical generation facilities.

Julio Friedmann, DOE principal deputy assistant secretary for fossil energy, said there are similarities between oil and gas production in North Dakota and Iraq that led to the visit. The invitation was made a year and a half ago through the Joint Cooperation Commission, a bilateral program between the U.S. and Iraq.

“I proposed to them that North Dakota’s experience with capturing gas near the wellhead and generating power might help them,” Friedmann explained. “The Iraqis are serious about reducing flaring, serious about getting gas to market and they have serious needs for power generation.”

Hamed Younis Saleh, Iraq’s deputy minister of gas affairs, and Hillal Ali Ismaeel Mushtaq, director of the general studies directorate, arrived in Bismarck on Monday. Accompanying them were Friedmann, Josh McKearin—a DOE international affairs specialist—and an American capital investor living in Iraq.

According to Friedmann, Iraq flares 1.2 billion cubic feet annually of associated gas from oil production because the country lacks the infrastructure to gather the gas and transport it to central power stations.

“They are developing the infrastructure, but it’s going to take time,” he said. “They’re seeking ways to bring their gas to market through power production. That will help their industry, their economy and it will help their government.”

On Tuesday, the Iraqi delegation met with industry and government representatives in Bismarck to discuss technologies for gas capture and power generation. Presentations were made by the University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center and state agencies that included the Oil and Gas Division, the Trade Office, the Department of Commerce and the Department of Health.

The North Dakota Petroleum Council and Basin Electric Power Cooperative, which operates gas-fired electric generation plants in the Williston Basin, also made presentations.

“I know that the vice minister and his team were pleased and impressed,” Friedmann said. “It was clear that they learned a lot, that they got value out of it and hopefully this experience will accelerate progress in both flaring reduction and power generation in Iraq.”

On Wednesday, the group toured a gas capture research project at a Hess Corp. well site in the Blue Buttes area of McKenzie County being conducted by the Environmentally Friendly Drilling (EFD) Program run by the Houston Advance Research Center (HARC). Funding for the project was provided by DOE’s Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (REPSEA) program and HARC.

The demonstration project uses a waste heat-to-power technology developed by ElectraTherm Inc. of Reno, Nevada. The company is collaborating on the project with Gulf Coast Green Energy (GCGE), an ElectraTherm distributor headquartered in Bay City, Texas.

The field tour concluded with a visit to Basin Electric’s Pioneer Generation Station near Williston.

On Friday, the Iraqi delegation will be in Washington, D.C., to meet with DOE and other federal officials. They will also attend an industry roundtable lunch at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that includes GE, Siemens, Alstom, PW Power Systems, Exxon Mobil and Occidental.

“It’s my hope that we will be able to identify companies and technologies for rapid deployment to Iraq in partnership with their government,” Friedmann said.


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