Industry investment in infrastructure and more emphasis on infill developmental wells are helping to contain North Dakota’s wellhead flaring of natural gas in the oil/liquids-rich Bakken Shale formation, a state official said.

A critical assessment of flaring at the wellhead by an energy analyst recently prompted Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority, to defend the job he sees the oil/gas industry doing in building pipeline and processing infrastructure to lessen the percentage of flared gas.

“One of the big assumptions [in any of these types of analysis] is what is our future investment in new gas infrastructure going to be, and obviously I think the industry is going to continue to step up with more investments in additional gas plants,” Kringstad said.

He told NGI’s Shale Daily Tuesday that he is confident the industry will continue to respond “if we see the volumes continue to increase and production continues to develop at the pace we are now. I don’t see any slowdown in efforts to capture and process that gas.”

Kringstad said he is seeing “very positive trends as far as how quickly we are getting new wells; the numbers of wells connected each month has continued to increase over the past several years so our pace of connecting wells is increasing.

“As these systems get built out, every new well and all these in-fill wells that need to be connected are that much closer, or essentially right next to existing gas gathering pipelines,” he said, adding that the critical current need is for more small-diameter gathering pipelines. “The infrastructure is being built out and we’re making positive headway in getting these wells connected.”

Earlier this month, RBN Energy LLC released an analysis essentially concluding that even with a multi-billion-dollar natural gas gathering and processing infrastructure buildout ongoing, North Dakota is not likely to greatly reduce the volumes of gas being flared as an offshoot of its oil boom (see Shale Daily, Sept. 10).

RBN analyst Sandy Fielden reminded readers in the report that in many instances gas production increases faster than oil production as wells mature in the Bakken Shale. Fielden suggested that it behooves operators in the future to find a home for their associated gas before starting new oil wells, or run the risk of having to deal with gas volumes in mandated, uneconomic ways.

Currently, more than one-third of North Dakota’s associated gas is flared. While there is no exact measurement of how much of the nation’s flaring is centered in the state, a reasonable guess is 25%, sources have told NGI’s Shale Daily (see Shale Daily, Aug. 13).

Kringstad said before the end of the year he hopes to get analyses from the state Department of Mineral Resources that show how much of the flaring has been lessened this year.

The infrastructure does not exist even for crude oil. The majority of Bakken crude is not shipped by pipeline. The end-of-June data had 47% of the supplies going by pipeline; 44% by rail; 6% to the Tesoro refinery and 3% via trucks to Canadian pipelines.