Congratulations are due Reps. Jason Dockter, Craig Headland, Michael Howe and Todd Porter and Sen. Dwight Cook, who all had the hindsight to propose a tax incentive bill that might draw companies to the Bakken to buy all of our gases — the ones cooked into our sweet luscious crude. To buy less than 100 percent of it would be rude.
Unfortunately, the mild action is over 10 years too late, with all due respect to the authors of Bill 1205. The timing was an issue as it turns out.
State leaders were told we had a world-class oil field in the west by the U.S.Geological Survey in 2008. Those loudmouths told everybody.
The officials who were paying attention might have known what was in the downstairs oven a bit earlier.
Then obviously, our regulators took some samples at the first well fracked in the modern Bakken. Of course, they did that. Then they dabbed a little behind the ears and told everyone not to spark up a joint or play with their Zippo.
And officials acted the part of being in charge and set forth some rules, like requiring infrastructure to be built to deal with the natural gas liquids before bad things could happen.
They did not do that. Just kidding. It’s corporations before corpuscles every time.
Back in the aught 2000s, North Dakota should have mandated the constructions and installations of all things that make up a proper world-class oil field complex, all on the dime of the oil companies. If the barons couldn’t scratch up the funds, our socialist bank might have loaned them a few bucks at a reasonable rate. If it got down to it, Mexico would have paid.
Why wouldn’t our state demand a large investment to match the enormity of recoverable crude? Too many jobs? Too many new residents paying taxes? Ecological issues, I chuckle?
That’s called foresight. It doesn’t matter how “Big Oil” feels about it, or if you personally care as a regulator. Did they expect us to build out their infrastructure before they showed up with all sorts of metal and drama?
“We’ve been driving around for hours, Ernie. Have you seen any place we can sell our NGLs? Has any pipe even been laid? Are the straddle plants invisible?”
“I haven’t even seen a jackalope.”
“Another oil field with no infrastructure to take away our gas. Great. Why doesn’t this state have everything ready for us? Where’s the fractionator?”
“We’ll have to burn it off, Lloyd. Have you seen a jackalope?”
“Not this shale juice, Ern. Way too gassy. Way too obvious.”
“Whoa! Good lord, it’s not one with horns, but that rabbit was as big as a German Shepherd. Did you see it, Lloyd?”
“Yeah, it bit through a barb wire fence. It must have gotten tired of hopping. There aren’t even any stabilizers set up.”
“That’s a tough jack. Anyway, we can get rid of some of the gases from the slow cooker by using trains. I think they have to pull whatever you hitch up to one of their locomotives. We’ll just leave everything immersed with the crude. Pour in the works and maybe add a little more captured gas to top off the tanker cars.”
“They’ll blow up easy, Ernie. If the train derails, I mean.”
Ernie is right. Ten Bakken derailments and nine of them resulted in one or dozens of 30,000-gallon tanker car explosions that sent fireballs up and laterally. There were mushroom clouds. The whole bit.
Crisp, amber North Dakota oil is naturally spiked with propane, ethane, butane, methane and other explosive natural gas liquids, aka NGLs, and they are dangerous.
Finally, we can put the era of Bakken oil trains with a sordid record of blowing up when they tip off the tracks behind us if — a BIG IF — some huge petrochemical corporation bites and the oil producers play along.
I doubt if exploding trains were brought up at any meetings in Bismarck, though.
Legislative intent is to put an end to the unnecessary flaring, which is a waste of valuable products, harmful to people and destructive to the planet where puppies live. Which one involves money?
The defusing of the trains was a happy accident for people who care about such things. An unintended consequence.
Air pollution kills millions every year worldwide, but it mostly sneaks up on a person. Death by train blast is immediate, at least to the 47 who were incinerated in Lac-Megantic by the ignition of the contents of a unit train sent from New Town, N.D. Some people thought the 2013 disaster threw up a red flag. To other folks, it was just a PR issue.
The air pollution boat has sailed, but exploding trains remains a choice.
More use of pipelines has led to more flaring because crude oil pipelines have standards. That’s my guess.
- “A sample of six North Dakota pipeline operators indicates that they have set RVP upper limits ranging from 9.0 to 14.7 psia for acceptable crude oil.” — North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC)
Owners of pipelines set standards and the Bakken producers are pleased to comply. Even if it’s 9.0, the attorney general doesn’t freak out and start lawsuits in motion.
But if Washington state asks for a 9.0 vapor pressure in the hope that none of its people get killed, state lawyers start gathering in groups that could be considered a riot if more than 50 percent of them are Natives.
In the meantime, they can still leave the NGLs in crude on the trains, if they want, so that’s still a sanctioned perk.
Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., told me at an online town hall that the practice may not be moral but not illegal. Kevin stuck with the immoral route, then moved on to become the chief bootlicker of an immoral crook. Scorpions hang with scorpions. It was an easy transition for easy Cramer.
In the meantime, hold your breath and cross your fingers. Rev. Cramer will lead us in prayer and down a fiery path.