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CNG Firm Sees Market in Bakken Flared Gas

Houston-based OsComp, promoting itself as "redefining natural gas," is moving aggressively into North Dakota's Williston Basin to turn Bakken Shale flared wellhead natural gas into profits by transforming it into compressed natural gas (CNG) for oilfield, industrial and transportation uses.

The firm is starting with a project near Watford City, ND, and expects to expand from there, according to founder/CEO Pedro Santos.

Santos in remarks on a panel at the LDC Gas Midcontinent Forum in Chicago Tuesday described the "pipeline on wheels" operation that would use module compression equipment and trucks to move gas to industrial uses that otherwise would be dependent on diesel or fuel oil.

Through technology he helped develop as a graduate student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Santos said OsComp has been able to transform the economics of moving gas supplies around via tractor-trailer trucks.

"There is about 300 MMcf/d of very rich Bakken natural gas that is currently flared," said Santos. He said OsComp has developed portable compression units to help capture and use flared gas at wellsites, or ship it for use at nearby processing plants or for other industrial uses.

"A lot of the gas is flared because the pipelines cannot be built fast enough to take it to a processing facility, or the gas is only going to be flared for 60 days so it is usually not economically viable to invest in equipment to harness that flared gas."

With financial backing from Chevron Corp. and private equity energy investor Energy Ventures, OsComp offers a technology with a relatively small (30-by-60-foot) system costing about a $500,000. Santos told the gas forum that operations would be "starting very soon" in the Bakken.

Off the wellsite, OsComp also is able to deliver flared gas via truck to a treatment facility where the liquid may be separated and the dry gas shipped via pipelines. "We're able to work within whatever infrastructure there happens to be available," Santos said.

The CNG can be applied to hydraulic fracturing (fracking) work, which Santos said normally consumes about 20,000 gallons of diesel fuel daily.

"We have developed a system that can provide very large quantities of CNG with a portable infrastructure," he said. Santos stressed that the equipment is much smaller and the requirements less complicated for using CNG at the wellsite as opposed to liquefied natural gas (LNG), also touted as way to capture flared gas (see Daily GPIDec. 11, 2013).

In the future, Santos said utilities may be a major customer, and he noted that CNG increasingly is being advanced where it can now fill larger, nontransportation end-uses that previously were only thought to be applicable to LNG.

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