The pipeline subsidiary of MDU Resources Group Inc. has received federal approval to build a pipeline expansion to transport natural gas from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota.

FERC on Tuesday issued the certificate of public convenience and necessity for WBI Energy Inc.’s 250 MMcf/d North Bakken Expansion project. The project includes construction in western North Dakota of about 62 miles of 24-inch diameter pipeline and 20 miles of 12-inch diameter pipeline. A compressor station and additional associated infrastructure also are part of the project.

With a projected cost of about $260 million, the Bakken expansion is expected to employ up to 450 people during peak construction, according to WBI.

WBI is ready to begin construction as soon as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issues a notice to proceed. “With receipt of the notice within the next 30 days, as anticipated, and favorable weather during construction, we expect to complete the expansion project and have it in service by the end of the year,” said CEO Trevor Hastings.

Earlier this year, Hastings indicated there could be additional potential shippers for the pipeline project, as Bakken oil and gas production began to increase in the second half of 2020.

“Production for oil has come back within just north of 80% of its peak, and on the gas side, it is up to 92% of previous peak loads,” Hastings said at the time. “We continue to be in contact with potential customers in the Bakken expansion, and as we have maintained, the project has the opportunity for additional expansion beyond the current 250 MMcf/d capacity.”

Recent data from the state Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) showed that natural gas production outpaced oil in the Bakken during March. Gas production was 89.2 Bcf (2.8 Bcf/d), compared to 75.7 Bcf (2.7 Bcf/d) in February. Oil production totaled 34.3. million bbl (1.1 million b/d) from 30.3 million bbl (1.08 million b/d).

North Dakota DMR director Lynn Helms said last month he had signed orders for another 12,095 wells to be drilled into the play, adding to 16,205 active wells. Meanwhile, the state also set a new high of 94% for gas capture, up 2% from February, according to the DMR data.

Hastings said the Bakken project could help North Dakota with its gas capture goal to keep flaring at 8% or less.

Touting the “bipartisan support at both the state and federal levels,” MDU CEO David Goodin said, “this project is vital to capturing natural gas that is produced — and currently flared — as an associated product of oil production in the Bakken. We will be moving natural gas to ultimately serve industrial and household consumers who use it to heat homes, power manufacturing and drive economic growth.”