Tag Archives: North Dakota Petroleum Council

North Dakota debating new vapor pressure standards

Repost from The Jamestown Sun, Jamestown, ND
[Editor: The proposed ND vapor pressure standards seem rather lax to my inexpert eyes.  See comparative Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) levels mentioned in an August 9 posting here on BenIndy: “On June 2nd Quantum Energy met with OIRA and presented a simple three-page presentation. The presentation explains how regular crude oil has a Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) of 5-7 psi and Bakken crude has an RVP between 8-16 psi. To put that in perspective, gasoline typically has a RVP of 9 psi.”  The proposed new standard in North Dakota according to this article is a “vapor pressure limit of 13.7 pounds per square inch.”  – RS]

Oil industry has ‘significant concerns’ about crude conditioning standards

By STATE/REGION on Nov 14, 2014

BISMARCK — North Dakota oil regulators said Thursday they want more input before approving new standards for removing volatile gases from crude oil before it’s shipped by rail, a proposal an industry representative warned could devalue Bakken crude and contribute to more flaring at well sites.

Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms presented the state Industrial Commission with the proposed standards, part of a national effort to improve oil-by-rail safety in the wake of several explosive oil train derailments.

Helms said the standards would result in Bakken crude “behaving even better than the unleaded gasoline that you put in your cars.”

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, who serves on the commission with Gov. Jack Dalrymple and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, said the department is “on the right track” with the proposed order. But he wanted more time to sort through it and allow for public comment.

Dalrymple agreed, called it “an excellent working draft” and a “very robust system of verification” for making sure Bakken crude falls within vapor pressure standards before it’s loaded onto the rails.

The commission said it would accept comment on the proposed order until 5 p.m. Wednesday and hold a special meeting by Dec. 11 to consider approving it so the standards can take effect Feb. 1.

Helms said the proposed order strengthens the existing rule by requiring well sites to use a gas-liquid separator and/or a heater-treater to remove so-called “light ends” like butane and propane from crude oil, and mandating the equipment be operated at certain temperatures and pressures.

He estimated 80 percent of existing wells in the Bakken and Three Forks formations would be able to produce oil within the proposed vapor pressure limit of 13.7 pounds per square inch.

National standards recognize oil with a vapor pressure of 14.7 psi or less to be stable, and winter blend gasoline has a vapor pressure of 13.5 psi, he said.

Helms said the average vapor pressure of Bakken crude across several recent studies was 11.8 psi, though “there were significant outliers.”

“We really believe that the vast majority of our Bakken crude oil will already fall well below the standard,” he said.

The roughly 15 percent of wells that operate outside of the temperature and pressure standards would have to hire a third party to test their crude for vapor pressure and submit the results to the state within 15 days. Operators looking to use alternative methods for conditioning or stabilizing their crude would need commission approval after a hearing process.

The proposed order also would ban the practice of blending crude oil with light ends or liquids recovered from gas pipelines before the oil is sold. Dalrymple noted violators can face fines as high as $12,500 per day.

“I think we want to be sure that that’s clear for everybody,” he said.

North Dakota Petroleum Council president Ron Ness cautioned that the standards could devalue Bakken crude by requiring it to be over-treated, at the same time contributing to natural gas flaring by removing more gas at the wellsite.

“I think we have some pretty significant concerns,” he said, adding the Industrial Commission is “getting into the nitty-gritty details of how companies manage their commodities.”

Helms said preliminary figures show 24 percent of the gas produced at North Dakota wells in September was burned off. Flaring reduction standards approved by the commission in July will lower the allowed flaring rate to 23 percent on Jan. 1, 15 percent by 2016 and 10 percent by Oct. 1, 2020.

The proposed oil conditioning standards will make it more challenging for producers to meet those flaring goals, Helms said.

“We’re pushing at both ends of the system, so we’re making life really difficult for these people right now. But it’s got to be safety first,” he said.

A Wall Street Journal article on Wednesday questioned the accuracy of the testing method used in a Petroleum Council-funded study of Bakken crude’s volatility, and Stenehjem asked Thursday whether the Industrial Commission should conduct its own study.

“It has been questioned, simply because it was the industry that conducted it,” he said.

Helms urged the commission to support an ongoing U.S. Department of Energy study that could involve the Energy & Environmental Research Center in Grand Forks.

Ness said it’s concerning that “the focus is all back on the commodity.”

“The root of the issue is the trains and the train tracks and the accidents,” he said.

North Dakota to Require Producers to Treat Crude Before Shipping

Repost from The Wall Street Journal

North Dakota to Require Producers to Treat Crude Before Shipping

Move Comes Amid Growing Safety Concerns About Oil-Laden Trains

By Chester Dawson, The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 13, 2014


North Dakota plans unprecedented steps to ensure crude pumped from the state’s Bakken Shale oil producing region is safe enough to be loaded into railroad tank cars and sent across the country.

In the first major move by regulators to address the role of gaseous, volatile crude in railroad accidents, the North Dakota Industrial Commission, which regulates energy production in the state, said it would require Bakken Shale well operators to strip gases from crudes that show high vapor pressures.

“We believe the vast majority of our Bakken oil will fall well below the standard,” Lynn Helms, director of the state’s Department of Mineral Resources, said at a news conference.

The proposed state rule will require all operators to run crude oil through equipment that heats up the crude and forces out gases from the liquid. An estimated 15% of current producers without such equipment will have to submit quarterly test results showing their wells don’t exceed the state’s proposed 13.7 pounds a square inch vapor pressure limit, Mr. Helms said.

Those changes could make the new rules more costly for the state’s smaller producers. Jack Ekstrom, vice president of government affairs for Whiting Petroleum Corp. said the rules don’t appear to be “a major material cost” he said. “This is perhaps more of a concern to a marginal or smaller operator.”

A representative for the North Dakota Petroleum Council, an industry lobbying group, criticized the proposed rules for “micromanaging the industry,” and said they could lead to unintended consequences such as increased burning of excess natural gas at well sites.

The proposal also would prohibit blending condensate or natural gas liquids back into crude and require rail loading terminals to inform state regulators of any oil received for shipment exceeding the vapor pressure limits, Mr. Helms said.

He said the new rules would cost industry, but not enough to make drilling Bakken oil uncompetitive.

Scott Skokos, an organizer with landowners’ group Dakota Resource Council, called the move by the regulator “a step in the right direction.”

The state’s decision follows months of officials’ playing down the possibility that Bakken crude was more volatile and could explode more readily than other North American crudes.

Several oil trains have derailed and exploded since 2013, spurring concern about the safety of growing numbers of oil-carrying trains delivering oil produced by the shale boom.

‘…a step in the right direction.’

—Scott Skokos, Dakota Resource Council

The Wall Street Journal reported in February that Bakken crude contained several times the amount of combustible gases as oil from elsewhere. Relying on an analysis of data collected at a pipeline in Louisiana, the Journal pointed out that oil from the Bakken Shale had a far higher vapor pressure, making it much more likely to emit combustible gases, than dozens of other crude oils.

The proposed rules specify how wells should treat the oil to ensure it is “in a stable state,” according to Mr. Helms.

Executives from the top oil companies working in the Bakken Shale told state regulators in a September hearing that their crude is safe to transport by train using existing treatment methods, opposing potentially costly requirements that they make the oil less volatile before shipping it.

But studies by the U.S. and Canada have indicated that Bakken crude is more volatile than other grades of oil. Industry-funded studies, including one commissioned by the NDPC, have said Bakken oil is no different than other types of light oil.

The state expects to issue final rules by December 11th.

Production of light shale oil through hydraulic fracturing has soared, accounting for most of the additional three million barrels a day of oil that the U.S. produces today compared with 2009. Much of that is shipped to refineries by railcars, especially crude produced from Bakken Shale due to the area’s few pipelines.

North Dakota oil reps say Bakken does not need more regulation

Repost from AP in The San Francisco Chronicle
[Editor: To paraphrase, ‘Bakken is no more volatile, we are already conditioning it, it would cost too much.’  …well, what did we expect them to say?  – RS]

Oil reps say ND has proper rail shipment rules

By James MacPherson, Associated Press, September 23, 2014
FILE - In this June 5, 2012 file photo provided by Rangeland Energy, LLC, a train leaves the company's crude oil loading terminal near Epping, ND. Oil industry representatives told North Dakota regulators Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014, that the state has proper regulations in place to treat Bakken crude for shipment by rail. North Dakota's Industrial Commission is considering new rules that would remove extra hydrocarbons from Bakken crude, a process some say might make the oil more safe for rail transport. Bakken crude has been linked to fiery oil train crashes like one outside Casselton, N.D., last December that left an ominous cloud over the town and led some residents to evacuate. Photo: Courtesy Of Rangeland Energy, LLC, AP / Rangeland Energy, LLC
In this June 5, 2012 file photo provided by Rangeland Energy, LLC, a train leaves the company’s crude oil loading terminal near Epping, ND. Oil industry representatives told North Dakota regulators Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014, that the state has proper regulations in place to treat Bakken crude for shipment by rail. North Dakota’s Industrial Commission is considering new rules that would remove extra hydrocarbons from Bakken crude, a process some say might make the oil more safe for rail transport. Bakken crude has been linked to fiery oil train crashes like one outside Casselton, N.D., last December that left an ominous cloud over the town and led some residents to evacuate. | Photo: Courtesy Of Rangeland Energy, LLC, AP

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Oil producers in North Dakota are objecting to any new state regulations that would require them to reduce the volatility of crude before it’s loaded onto rail cars.

North Dakota’s Industrial Commission is considering new rules that would require companies to remove certain liquids and gasses from crude oil train shipments, a process some say would make such transport safer. But oil industry officials told the commission Tuesday that the state already has proper regulations in place.

“To date, no evidence has been presented to suggest that measureable safety improvements would result from processes beyond current oil conditioning,” Hess Corp. spokesman Brent Lohnes said.

Oil trains in the U.S. and Canada were involved in at least 10 major accidents during the last 18 months, including an explosion in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, that killed 47. Other trains carrying Bakken crude have since derailed and caught fire in Alabama, Virginia, North Dakota.

But Kari Cutting, vice president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, said nine of the incidents involved derailments and one was due to a leaky valve.

“The material contained in these railcars was not the cause,” Cutting said.

A federal report released earlier this year by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration says oil from North Dakota’s prolific Bakken formation may be more flammable than other crudes. But a report funded by the North Dakota Petroleum Council says Bakken oil is no more dangerous to transport by rail than other crudes and fuels.

Oil from North Dakota began being shipped by trains in 2008 when the state reached capacity for pipeline shipments. The state is now the nation’s No. 2 oil producer, behind Texas.

Cutting, whose group represents more than 500 companies working in North Dakota’s oil patch, said the each of the more than 11,000 oil wells in the state already has equipment in place to stabilize or condition the oil before shipment.

“Requiring stabilization beyond current conditioning practices would be a costly, redundant process that would not yield any additional safety benefits,” she said.

Industry officials also pointed out that stripping liquids and gases from Bakken crude would result in even-more volatile products that would still have to be shipped by rail.

Outside the Bismarck building where the commission was meeting, members of an environmental-minded landowner group hoisted a large banner that read, “Stop Bomb Trains, Stabilize Bakken Crude.”

Theodora Bird Bear of Mandaree, a spokeswoman for the Dakota Resource Council, told reporters that oil companies are cutting corners to boost their bottoms lines.

“When they talk about saving money, what they are really talking about is reducing public safety,” Bird Bear said.

Members of the group said the issue of safer Bakken oil goes well beyond North Dakota’s border.

“No one in this country feels safe around these rail lines,” Scott Skokos said.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday sent a letter to Gov. Jack Dalrymple, asking for additional safety measures for oil trains leaving North Dakota.

Alison Ritter, a spokeswoman for the regulatory panel, said a decision on whether to change state rules could come within 90 days.

U.S. Mayors: oil trains must be drained of explosive gas

Repost from Reuters
[Editor: see also Safety of Citizens in Bomb Train Blast Zones in Hands of North Dakota Politicians and North Dakota seizes initiative in CBR degasification. – RS]

U.S. oil trains must be drained of explosive gas, mayors say

By Patrick Rucker. WASHINGTON, Sep 16, 2014

(Reuters) – Dangerous gas should be removed from oil train shipments to prevent a future disaster on the tracks, U.S. mayors and safety officials will tell regulators in comments on a sweeping federal safety plan.

The Department of Transportation in July proposed measures meant to end a string of fiery accidents as more trains carrying oil from North Dakota wind across the United States.

Tank cars carrying flammable cargoes would be toughened and forced to move at slower speeds under the plan. But critics say the failure to address vapor pressure, a measure of how much volatile gas is contained in the crude, is a major omission, and intend to drive their point home.

“That’s an oversight we’re going to push them to fix,” Elizabeth Harman, an official with the International Association of Fire Fighters, told Reuters.

Responses to the DOT’s plan are due by Sept. 30, and so far more than 100 comments have been received. Typically in a contentious rulemaking major stakeholders submit their views just before the deadline.

U.S. officials have studied vapor pressure since July 2013, when a runaway oil train derailed in the Quebec village of Lac-Megantic, killing 47 people in a fireball that shocked many with its explosive power.

Until recently, official findings on vapor pressure were in line with industry-funded studies: That the North Dakota fuel is similar to other U.S. light crude oil deemed safe to move in standard tank cars.

But the DOT said last week that it did not properly handle prior samples and that a precision device, a floating piston cylinder, is needed to reliably detect vapor pressure dangers.

Given that disclaimer, many officials simply want dangerous gas removed from crude oil before it is loaded onto rail cars.

“The technology exists so it boils down to costs,” said Mike Webb, a spokesman for Davis, California, who expects nearby cities will join a call for safer handling of Bakken crude from North Dakota.

Under one scenario, energy companies would siphon gas from crude oil and send the fuel to market via different channels. But building such infrastructure, like separators or processing towers, could cost billions of dollars.

The North Dakota Petroleum Council has sampled some Bakken fuel using a floating piston cylinder and the results have been inconclusive, said Kari Cutting, vice president for the trade group.

“But nothing we’ve seen supports the idea that Bakken crude is more volatile than other light crude oils or other flammable liquids,” said Cutting.

But leaders of many railside towns say uncertainty demands the fuel only move under the most stringent safety measures.

“There is a way to haul dangerous cargo safely and that means using state-of-the-art tools,” said Karen Darch, mayor of the Chicago suburb of Barrington, where fuel-laden freight trains cross commuter tracks as many as 20 times a day.

North Dakota officials will next week hold a hearing to consider measures to de-gasify crude oil in the state.

(Reporting by Patrick Rucker, editing by Ros Krasny and Cynthia Osterman)