‘Volatile’ Bakken Crude Is Raising New Regulatory Questions for Operators. We Have Answers
February 11, 2015

MultiBlueFixedBy Scott A. Stewart, Regional Manager, North Rocky Mountain

Oil and gas companies operating in the Williston Basin of North Dakota have a challenge.

Production in the region has grown by leaps and bounds, but with limited pipeline takeaway capacity, 70% of all crude moving out of the state is transported by rail. Unfortunately, rail transport of hydrocarbons can be dangerous – with derailments, spills and explosions in parts of the U.S. and Canada making the news this past year.

Starting in 2015, regulators with the North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC) are stepping in, mandating strict new processing rules designed to minimize these risks. The new regulations, based on the belief by some that Bakken crude is more volatile than products from other basins, will require operators to soon begin treating their hydrocarbons in an effort to remove the more volatile light compounds from the oil and reduce the overall vapor pressure. This, it is believed, will make rail transport of these hydrocarbons safer.

As it stands right now, operators only have until April 1, 2015 to come up with a conditioning solution to treat their oil before the new regulations take effect.

So what are the options?

Optimize existing facilities: In order to effectively “boil off” the light hydrocarbons to meet the NDIC vapor pressure standards, operators will need to heat their oil to a certain temperature during the separation phase. But, heat it too much and you’ll boil off the heavier products as well, eating into your profit margins. In order to strike the proper balance, operators will need to know how much heat input is optimal for their systems in order to remove the lighter hydrocarbons safely and efficiently.

Install new equipment: Operators that don’t already have the needed phase separators and heater treaters in place to accomplish this type of conditioning will need to design, procure and install those systems in early 2015.

At Halker, we are committed to finding the most economic and straightforward solutions to our client’s challenges. The NDIC Crude Conditioning order has not required much adjustment for Halker’s current producer clients in the Bakken. For instance, all of Halker’s surface facilities designs in the region had already included the proper equipment to meet the oil temperature heating requirement. System modeling was simply performed to find and implement the optimum settings.

How can Halker help?

For those producers having to comply with the vapor recovery requirements related to higher pressures, Halker Consulting is uniquely prepared to evaluate your system and recommend the best path forward. Halker can identify the most cost effective equipment specifications, when needed, and incorporate those components into your existing facility in a way that maximizes safety, ease of use and efficiency. We will stay with you through installation and startup, evaluating and balancing your system so that best results are achieved.

Each wellpad is unique, and there may be other avenues to approach these new compliance requirements without vapor recovery systems or other costly pieces of equipment depending on your individual needs.

Halker Consulting is committed to helping producers in the Bakken adapt to these new regulations. We can study and assess your situation and offer individualized, custom solutions to manage your production and conditioning flows up to, through, and after the implementation phase of these regulations. Contact me for more information.

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