Bakken Shale / Shale Daily / Rockies/Other

Final Bakken Crude Study: No Different Than Other Oil

A final third-party report on the characteristics of light, sweet oil from the Bakken/Three Forks region again shows that the supplies from North Dakota are not more volatile or flammable than other crude oils.

The report's author, Turner, Mason & Co., will present the final findings on Wednesday to a meeting of the North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC), which includes Gov. Jack Dalrymple. The results confirm a preliminary report by Turner, Mason that was released in May at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference (see Shale Daily, May 21).

North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) Director Lynn Helms also will make a related presentation to the three-member NDIC, according to a DMR spokesperson.

The final document also outlines field operating best practices, including:

  • Maintaining all fired treating equipment at a temperature between 90-120 degrees F to create a consistent industry standard that ensures optimal separation of water and gas from the crude oil stream;
  • Providing maximum tank settling time;
  • Reducing stock tank pressure to the lowest level possible;
  • Testing each unit train loading or tank shipment batch to that ensure oil is within established Bakken specifications; and
  • Classifying all Bakken crude as Class III, Packing Group I hazardous materials.

The Turner, Mason report also compared its analysis with other studies of Bakken crude, including a study commissioned by the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) and the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA).

John Auers, executive vice president of Turner, Mason, said the final document is "the most thorough and comprehensive analysis of crude oil quality to date" from tight oil production basins. He called the report "conclusive and consistent scientific data" about the Bakken crude.

The final study helps establish a baseline for Bakken crude characteristics, said Kari Cutting, a vice president at the North Dakota Petroleum Council (NDPC), which commissioned the independent study. "Our members have already begun implementing many of these best practices,” Cutting said.

"Test results from this study are consistent with scientific data reported by the AFPM and PHMSA. All of this data does not support the speculation that Bakken crude is more volatile or flammable than other light, sweet crudes."

NDPC wants to use the report in its work with regulators to shore up the safety of oil shipments by rail, Cutting said.

As with the preliminary report, the final study confirmed through extensive sampling that Bakken crude's inherent characteristics do not make it riskier to ship by rail, and it noted that ongoing investigations are looking at the cause for the spate of crude rail accidents in the recent past (see Shale Daily, Feb. 26).

Bakken crude's basic properties fit the profile of other crudes in terms of API gravity (40-43 degrees); sulfur content (less than 0.2 weight %); average vapor pressure (11.5-11.8 psi); flashpoint (73 degrees F); and boiling point ((95-100 degrees F).

"The results indicate that well-to-well quality of Bakken crude is very consistent," the report said. "Testing across geographic areas showed very limited geographic variation in key properties, such as API, vapor pressure and light ends content."

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