FERC on Thursday authorized MDU Resources Group's WBI Energy Inc. (WBI) to construct and operate expansion facilities for the Valley Expansion Project, which would for the first time bring natural gas to a number of towns in far-eastern North Dakota and parts of western Minnesota.

The project is designed to provide about 40,000 Dth/d of firm natural gas transportation service on a bi-directional basis between an interconnection with Viking Gas Transmission Co. and the proposed Mapleton Compressor Station [CP17-257].

Bismark, ND-based WBI has said it received significant interest from its customers in the region, which has driven plans for the $55-60 million project.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission order requires WBI to adopt the I-29 variation of the project, even though the length of its proposed pipeline would increase by 0.2 miles, due to the variation's environmental benefits. The order also grants WBI's request to establish its proposed incremental recourse reservation charge and its existing system commodity charge as initial recourse rates for project service.

The project is part of WBI's plans to grow natural gas transportation volumes in the area. Since 2010, WBI has expanded its Bakken Shale takeaway capacity for gas six-fold, and it anticipates having significant capacity additions online by late next year.