The Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation in western North Dakota are considering building a natural gas processing plant, a facility that would complement an oil refinery slated to begin construction in the spring.

Tex Hall, chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara (MHA) Nation, said the tribes are considering locations for a gas processing plant on the reservation, the Associated Press reported. The facility would accept Bakken Shale gas that would otherwise be flared. Hall said such a facility would cost up to $300 million, and the tribes are currently seeking funding.

Hall also said he believes there will be 3,000 wells producing 300,000 b/d on the reservation within six years. According to data from the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, Fort Berthold had 1,055 active wells at the end of September. The reservation accounted for 25% of the state’s total oil and gas production in August (see Shale Daily, Aug. 19).

Karen Rabbithead, spokeswoman for the MHA Nation, told NGI’s Shale Daily that the tribe is also interested in expanding the proposed $450 million Thunder Butte Petroleum Services refinery near Makoti, ND, from 13,000 b/d to 20,000 b/d.

The tribes held a ceremonial groundbreaking in May. Construction of the oil refinery is expected to last two years.

In a separate interview this month with KFYR-TV, Hall said oil and gas development on the reservation would help both the MHA Nation and the United States, with the latter achieving more energy independence.

“We call it sovereignty by the barrel, one drop at a time,” Hall said. “We feel very blessed to be a part of this opportunity. Our kids will have a much brighter future. My generation will be the last to grow up without running water, electricity or TV.”

Chris Faulkner, CEO of Breitling Oil and Gas Corp., told the station that the company was in a partnership with the tribes but did not go into specifics.

“We’re working hand-in-hand with the tribes to help them with the opportunity that they have, the resource beneath their feet,” Faulkner said. “If you look at the last one hundred plus years of how we treated the Native Americans, we gave them this land [because] we thought [it] was [a] waste land. They’ve converted that now into a multi-billion opportunity.”

The U.S. Department of Interior approved the MHA tribes’ “land-into-trust” application for the refinery in October 2012 (see Shale Daily, Oct. 16, 2012). The tribes had asked Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to accept a 469-acre parcel into trust, with the refinery taking up 190 acres and the remainder used for the production of feed for the tribes’ buffalo herd.

The BIA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency completed a final environmental review of the refinery in 2009, and the latter issued a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit for the project in August 2011.