Thousands of trucks that used to be required for hauling fresh water to well completions have been taken off the road by a simple device. That device is flexible water transfer pipes, and the process of using them is about to get simpler as well.

The North Dakota Petroleum Council has been working with the state’s Department of Transportation to streamline permitting for the use of the temporary water transfer pipes.

Ron Ness is president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council.

“A large percentage of the big topics over the last decade have revolved around the vast amount of truck traffic needed by the oil and gas industry,” he said.

For a four-well pad, the water pipes can take as many as 13,000 trucks off the road per day, hauling fresh water to the site for well completion.

The pipes lay flat on the ground when they are not full of water, and then pop out to full size when they are.

They even work when it’s freezing outside, something that surprised Ness initially. He wasn’t sure they’d work in a North Dakota winter, but they do, as long as the water is kept moving.

“These are having a huge, positive impact,” Ness said. “Landowners have been very supportive of them, because it’s improving the safety along and near their homes.”

Being a new and unproven technology, permitting for the temporary water lines needed a little tweaking, which the NDPC has been working on the past several months.

Now a new process has been approved for permitting the pipes, which should make it easier for companies to use flexible pipes for water transfer.

The new policy lengthens the permit period from 30 to 45 days, and the renewal process has been simplified. The companies will be able to run 10 inch pipes through 24-inch or larger culverts and 12-inch pipes through 30-inch or larger culverts.

For culverts less than 24 inches, 8-inch pipe may be allowed with District engineer approval.

The new policy also spells out that operations of the temporary water lines must cease if water flow has reached a depth of one-quarter the diameter of the culvert.

Completion of the policy now is particularly timely, Ness said.

“We are moving into road restriction season here, and this can reduce the impact on roads during that time,” he said.

Road restrictions can substantially slow well completions by preventing the movement of trucks and equipment.

The flex-pipes are among the latest in a long line of technology improvements that have been increasing the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the Bakken, while at the same time making it safer.

“This is a big part of what we have seen in technology advancements and being able to reduce costs and make the Bakken more economic,” Ness said. “But the big thing here is still tens of thousands of fewer trucks on the roads.”

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