To Reach Flare Capture Goals

By The Bakken Magazine Staff | April 30, 2014

In response to flare reduction targets created by the North Dakota Petroleum Council, and new flaring rules approved by the North Dakota Industrial Commission’s Department of Mineral Resources, Chad Wocken, senior research manager at the Energy & Environmental Research Center, has created a list of possible solutions for operators or midstream companies looking for a flare-reduction technology. The list consists of vendor-supplied information on technologies suitable for a range of different operating conditions and purposes. “Most people would assume that there is a silver bullet out there,” Wocken said, “that if we could just find it and deploy it a thousand times that we would be able to capture all of this gas. But it is just not that easy. This flaring problem is a really nuanced issue.”

The NDIC recently approved six recommendations for flare reduction in the state. The recommendations will require operators that are submitting applications for permits to drill after June 1, to include Gas Capture Plans that outline how a new well will approach flare reduction, among many other requirements. The GCP’s will include a location of a well, closest pipeline and processing plant, the system capacity of gathering and transport lines, the volume of gas flowing from multiwell pads and a time period for a connection.

Wocken and his team were asked by the North Dakota Petroleum Council to compile the list in an effort to help operators and midstream companies find a flaring solution. The team has worked with the technology providers to help them understand the nature and components within flared gas from the Bakken, and to explain the extreme operating conditions any technology will face during winter months. Wocken has also worked with multiple vendors to highlight opportunities to combine technologies that complement each other.

For the past eight months, Wocken’s team has been working with operators as the NDPC developed its flare reduction goals. The NDPC’s Flaring Task Force goals, if completed, would increase natural gas capture to 85 percent within two years, 90 percent in six years and potentially 95 percent after that.

“If flaring technology is packaged appropriately, it will provide a benefit, but it depends on the conditions,” he said.

Because every well in the Williston Basin could be operating in unique or varying conditions compared to every other well, there is a huge need for multiple technologies, Wocken said. In some cases, a remote well site that uses flared gas to power a diesel generator makes sense. But, not all remote sites are suitable for flared gas power generation technology. If a well utilizing flared gas power generation is shut-in for any reason, (maxed out oil tanks that have to be relieved), then the flared gas that is used to power the site may not be produced at a high-enough rate to power the site. In the case of a grid-interconnect situation, the cost and time associated with connecting a flared gas-to-electricty system to a grid may not be worth it. And, although some natural gas liquid (NGL) recovery systems work to reduce flaring, many systems do not treat the methane stream in the gas, an element of the systems that doesn’t entirely capture the flare. “Every one of these technologies have complicated nuisances,” he says.

The flaring solutions database contains the technology’s application or ability to treat, capture or create NGLs, power, compressed natural gas and others. The list also includes the economics of each system and other case study information or accompanying documents submitted by the vendors. Wocken and his team are also considering demonstration projects and other vendor specific projects to study and verify the effectiveness of certain flaring technology approaches. The list currently includes more than 40 technologies.