A group of small natural gas-related firms seeking to displace diesel use in North Dakota's Bakken Shale oilfield operations and transportation have launched an effort to gauge the interest of operators in switching to compressed (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG) applications.

The firms represent different pieces of the infrastructure network needed to use wellsite gas as CNG and LNG for drilling, hydraulic fracturing and transport.

GoC4, MicroLNG and AmeriFlare collectively want to provide the field equipment if there are enough Bakken operators interested in services. "In order to evaluate local market interest, we are seeking to get client requirements by Dec. 31," according to GoC4.

Expressions of interest would be nonbinding, and if there is enough positive reaction to support a project, GoC4 plans to work on obtaining individual contracts with operators.

"We have reached the tipping point where the benefits of natural gas as a fuel far exceed the investment required to use it," said GoCH4’s Wes Livingston, vice president for project development.

Wellsite flaring of associated gas in the Bakken field is approaching 1 million b/d, and it has been a growing concern for not only operators but also regulators (see Shale Daily, Nov. 8). A producers' task force has been meeting monthly to consider options for reducing flaring. North Dakota’s Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) also has been under increasing pressure to help reduce flaring, now at about 30%.

A year ago, DMR and the North Dakota Pipeline Authority hosted a webinar focused on alternatives, and eight different companies with services and equipment participated, but little has happened as a result, said DMR spokeswoman Alison Ritter, who was involved in last year’s webinar.

"There has always been a push from the state to utilize natural gas from the oilfields [directly for transportation and drilling operations]," said Ritter. She noted that so far nothing major has been done to reverse the level of flaring, except building more new gas processing and takeaway infrastructure.

However, she said companies interested in helping reduce flaring may have issues in getting support.

"The problems companies like these face is the question of whether they have the financial support to do this on a large scale,” she said. Nothing large-scale ever has been done, she added.

Although DMR did not know about the proposed CNG/LNG project, "The state welcomes any advancements in beneficial uses of natural gas,” Ritter said.