Bakken Midstream Natural Gas LLC is considering developing a dual-fuel electric cooperative power plant in North Dakota that would primarily operate on ethane, with natural gas also in the fuel mix.

Bakken Midstream

Bakken Midstream is proposing to build the Williston Basin Energy Center for Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative near Williston, ND, in the heart of the Bakken Shale.* The project, subject to final operational and power purchase agreements, could be the largest plant to principally use ethane, according to Bakken Midstream.

Privately held Bakken Midstream last October obtained nearly $25 million to boost the North Dakota natural gas sector and use ethane in power plants. The size of the proposed plant and the timeline were undisclosed, with the company indicated it would be a large-scale baseload facility.

“We can confirm that we have our first term sheet for ethane supply, and we are actively negotiating with other sources,” said CEO Mike Hopkins. “Bakken Midstream will build and own the midstream assets that will bring the ethane to the plant, which can operate on either natural gas or ethane, but is intended to primarily operate on ethane.”

Last October $25 million in financing was provided by Bakken Midstream founder and Executive Chairman Steven Lebow, as well as the North Dakota business community. Lebow founded and co-led Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette’s Los Angeles office and created and led GRP Partners, a U.S. and European venture capital firm.

Bakken Midstream has worked to address the challenges ethane poses to North Dakota’s oil and gas sector and find innovative ways to meet power generation needs, Lebow said. The state last year made progress to capture more flared gas.

The midstream operator is reimagining “what is possible and re-engineering what exists to mitigate natural gas flaring, enable additional oil production and productively utilize ethane through ethane-fueled power generation projects,” Lebow said. “With this Energy Center, we have realized the first step of our broader value-added vision.” 

Associated gas from oil production is likely to continue to be an issue unless a value-added industry is developed in the state, according to Hopkins. “Ethane has a higher heat content than pipeline quality natural gas, and leaving high volumes of ethane in the natural gas stream limits export capabilities and adversely impacts the downstream consumers of North Dakota’s natural gas.”

*The story has been corrected to note that Bakken Midstream is proposing to build the Williston Basin Energy Center.