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Combustion Tech Firm Proposes North Dakota Flaring Solution

A Columbia, MD-based combustion technology company on Wednesday touted yet another proposed wellsite solution to North Dakota's seemingly intractable flaring problem as part of a presentation at the power conference of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in Baltimore.

Two engineers who are cofounders and coinventors at LPP Combustion LLC think their breakthrough can advance microgrid applications in places like the Williston Basin oilfields, capturing the associated natural gas at the wellsite to generate electricity for use in oil/gas operations and the surrounding communities.

"Our technology allows us to burn a range of light liquid as a substitute natural gas," said Leo Eskin, COO and cofounder at LPP Combustion. "It allows us to arbitrarily switch between a liquid fuel and natural gas, offering a fuel arbitrage. When the liquid fuels are low cost it will significantly reduce energy costs."

Eskin said LPP Combustion has been asked by the Three Affiliated Tribes -- Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara (MHA) -- for a demonstration on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota where there are more than 1,000 wells, accounting for 300,000 b/d, or nearly 30% of the state's overall oil production.

"They are proposing to store the natural gas liquids (NGL) from the flared gas and then have a series of microgrids to provide power not only to the drilling operations, but also to the people and commercial operations on the reservation," an LPP Combustion spokesperson said. "The Indian Tribe has shown very strong interest, and that is where we will be going in the next month or so."

What LPP Combustion is offering is a unit consisting of a gas turbine and a skid-mounted LPP fuel-conditioning unit that takes flared gas and/or NGLs and vaporizes them and blends them with nitrogen to create what Eskin called "healthy LPP gas" that is burned in the turbine to make electricity.

Although the technology is scalable to power generation of all sizes, Eskin said it is particularly applicable to micro turbines and remote power generation. The technology allows for a renewable substitute natural gas to be burned in a generation turbine along with traditional gas supplies, he said. It is particularly applicable to remote areas where there is no traditional gas infrastructure.

In the Bakken, LPP Combustion is suggesting that its skid-mounted mobile generation units can take wellsite flared associated gas for power generation in lieu of trucking in more polluting diesel supplies to run reciprocating engine-powered generators.

"We can tap right into the flare and use the NGLs that are coming out of that gas and turn it into a clean-burning natural gas substitute to run gas-fired turbines," said an LPP Combustion spokesperson, adding that the technology works with flared gas and NGLs or with various other liquid fuels, such as naphtha.

Engineer Richard Roby, co-inventor of the LPP Combustion technology, presented a paper Wednesday at the second day of the three-day ASME conference advocating the technology as a solution to the North Dakota flaring conundrum.

"In the Bakken, we could be greatly reducing the pollution from the flaring, and we're also providing significant cost reductions because the producers are paying a lot to truck in diesel fuel," Eskin said.

In recent years there have been various proposal for microgrid and mini-fertilizer plants using the associated wellsite gas, but none have so far gotten off the ground. Eskin said that some of the microgrid proposal have concentrated on advances in the generation equipment, but LPP's technology is focused on the fuel, not the generator.

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