Industry’s Take on Flaring, Wastewater and Oilfield Waste Changes

Industry insight on the current state of flaring, changes ahead for oilfield waste disposal in North Dakota and the glaring demand for salt water disposal services.
By Luke Geiver | August 14, 2014

Flaring is a topic that can launch a thousand conversations, each different in scope, length and proximity to the truth.   The most basic conversations about flaring begin with the questions:

Why does it occur and why is the valuable resource underutilized? Then comes the question of logistics and how can the oil and gas industry, in conjunction with North Dakota, efficiently and economically capture the flare? And finally, there’s the question of when—when will an acceptable level of gas be captured?

Answers to these questions are becoming clear, thanks to unprecedented regulatory action by the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources and David Scobel’s team at Caliber Midstream.  Staff Writer Patrick C. Miller writes about Scobel’s perspective on flaring in his timely story, “Executing The Gas Capture Plan,” in which Scobel recounts a lunch time conversation he held with a financial analyst. The conversation helped Scobel realize that midstream gas gathering in the Bakken is unpredictable and, in many cases, a task that requires reworking previous infrastructure build-outs that at one time seemed to be appropriate.

As chief financial officer of Caliber, a midstream gas gathering company heavily focused on the Williston Basin, Scobel’s overall commentary regarding the backstory of flaring, logistical challenges and the unpredictable nature of the Bakken seems to be as close to the truth about flaring as we could hope for.

Although we could have devoted an entire issue of the magazine to flaring, we chose to include updates on wastewater and oilfield waste in the Williston Basin instead. The easy summation of the Bakken’s wastewater handling and disposal industry can be described this way: growth. As the Bakken moves into full production mode and multi-well pads become the norm, water volumes of produced and flowback water could outpace the projected capacity and economic viability of the Bakken’s current saltwater disposal infrastructure. Consequently, water disposal firms, such as Citadel Energy and 1804 Operating, are planning future expansion while they enjoy current success.

In the oilfield waste handling and disposal sector of the Bakken, change is coming. A conversation with Scott Radig, the North Dakota Department of Health’s director of waste management, revealed that how oilfield waste is handled and where that waste can be disposed of in North Dakota will change—possibly in 2014. The state will implement new regulations aimed at tracking oilfield waste from the cradle to the grave, a situation that is not currently happening. More importantly, North Dakota could soon allow higher levels of naturally occurring radioactive material at special landfills within the state’s borders. Radig is awaiting the results of a study that could validate his belief that North Dakota can, and should be able to, dispose of its own oilfield waste. As the story reveals, the waste disposal industry is similar to the midstream companies of the Bakken––both sectors are not only in favor of a new regulatory landscape, they are already working to meet their industry’s challenges.


Author: Luke Geiver
The Bakken magazine

Published in The Bakken magazine - August 2014