Rethinking Resource Utilization

The Bakken has sparked several unique to the region projects that in their own way could each streamline, optimize, or offer a new and better alternative in storing produced gas, capturing value from the shale energy retrieval process or more.
By North American Shale magazine staff | May 10, 2019

The Bakken and Three Forks formations could require up to 80,000 unconventional wells to effectively drain the currently known tight oil trapped in the oil producing zones of the greater Williston Basin. Less than two decades into the development cycle of the Bakken and Three Forks, industry has drilled and completed fewer than 15,000 wells. While the long-term focus of the Williston Basin remains on enhancing unconventional oil and gas development, the play has also sparked several unique to the region projects that in their own way could each streamline, optimize, or offer a new and better alternative in storing produced gas, capturing value from the shale energy retrieval process, utilize existing geologic resources or connect with non-oil- or gas-related industries like agriculture or electricity production.

Storing Produced Gas In Existing Geologic Formations
In late 2018, the North Dakota Industrial Commission approved a study that will examine the possibility of injecting excess produced gas into existing geologic formations. Researchers from the University of North Dakota’s Energy & Environmental Research Center will examine geologic formations capable of containing excess gas and the technologies that could be used for the process. The researchers will also explore the regulatory and statutory requirements required to make the excess gas-to-underground injection process feasible. The Dakota formation is currently used for saltwater disposal injection.

Powering Cell phone Batteries From North Dakota Rare Earth Minerals
Through the North Dakota Oil and Gas Research Program, a team of engineers and private industry members are studying and testing a process to treat oilfield brines to generate high-purity sodium chloride or to recover and concentrate high-value elements such as lithium or other rare earth elements. Researchers hope to prove out a full commercial-scale set-up that is currently under development and undergoing testing in the field at a non disclosed location. A similar project is taking place in the Marcellus, where commercial entities are using nanofiltration technology and removable membranes to speed up the evaporation process required to retrieve the minerals from the brine.

Enhancing Existing Oil Production, Connecting With Other Industries
Working with existing coal-powered electricity generation sites in North Dakota, a research effort between university and private industry is now underway to evaluate the possibility of utilizing CO2 as an injected gas to enhance existing oilfields.

Through Project Tundra, the EERC, Minnkota Power Cooperative, BNI Energy and Eagle Energy Partners, will work on a $1.3 billion project to establish a CO2 capture set-up at the Milton R. Young Station near Center, N.D. Captured CO2 will be piped to another location, stored, and then made available for injection into existing oilfields capable of benefiting from gas-based enhanced oil recovery. The project will mimic an existing operation near Houston, Texas.

Proppants Supplied From In-Basin Sites
Petroleum geologists are exploring the feasibility of mining and recovering microproppant material used in hydraulic fracturing from several locations along the Missouri River in North Dakota. Microproppant has become a widely used addition to the fracking process. The particles are typically smaller than sand and help establish the secondary fracture network further out from the wellbore’s main fracture matrix. Geologists in North Dakota are studying loess, a substance common on river banks and cuts, is popular for its very fine grain size and high degree of permeability.

As sand options have expanded past Minnesota and Wisconsin into places like Texas, Nebraska and Oklahoma, researchers in North Dakota are also looking at in-basin sand options from North Dakota. The team is examining eolian and bedrock sandstone formations for potential fracking proppant. Initially, the researchers found North Dakota frack sand options came up short of particle strength specifications of the oil and gas industry, but recent changes in the fracking process have made North Dakota particles a possibility. The state has investigated 32 particle types from 13 counties and expects to continue its research and collect another 30 samples from more counties in the state.

~From The Bakken Report 2019 print issue