North Dakota’s cattle ranchers have had to make difficult decisions this year, North Dakota Stockmen’s Association Vice President Julie Ellingson told lawmakers this week on Capitol Hill.
Ellingson testified before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power about the impact of drought on North Dakota’s cattle ranchers and the importance of livestock grazing as a land management tool. The subcommittee is examining the current status and management of federal drought-related resources in the Western United States. More than 90 percent of the West is experiencing some degree of drought. North Dakota, meanwhile, is experiencing one if its worst droughts in history, with 99.8 percent of the state under a drought designation. The state has set records for earliest onset of exceptional drought conditions, and the highest drought sev verity and coverage index in history.
Many cattle ranchers have been forced to sell off herds, Ellingson said, noting a 24-percent increase in sales at auction markets where the NDSA maintains brand inspection this year. As of July 2021, North Dakota’s ranchers had sold 148,000 cows, which works out to a yearly average of 200,000.
“The impacts of drought are complex. There are the immediate effects – lack of water for irrigation, lack of spring rainfall during crucial growing seasons for grasses and crops and lower water tables … There are the medium-term effects – increased risk of fire, changes to the watersheds downstream and compounded effects on business operations and natural resource planning. Then, there are the long-term effects – change in local economic stability due to the inability to adjust to drought conditions, loss of natural resource elements due to direct and indirect impacts of drought and more,” Ellingson said.
Grazing plays a critical role in natural resource management and wildfire prevention, Ellingson said, and continued federal support for grazing, which plays a critical role in forage production, wildlife food and habitat, and the storage of carbon, is vital.
“As this committee, this Congress and the Administration look for ways to make landscapes more resilient and to increase conservation, using grazing to manage grasslands and optimize their potential will be key,” she stressed.
Ellingson also thanked lawmakers for the assistance that has been provided to livestock producers in response to the emergency conditions, particularly noting the recent enhancements to the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program, which helps offset the cost of transporting feed in drought situations. That change was announced following a drought tour and roundtable discussion hosted by Sen. John Hoeven in North Dakota this summer.
“As a rancher, I know that landscapes carefully managed through livestock grazing are more resilient. Healthy ecosystems must be created, nurtured and maintained, and it takes coordination from all parties. Healthy landscapes take investment from each of us, and ranchers are doing their part.”
Hoeven said the year has been particularly challenging for North Dakota’s producers, amid grassland fires, unpredictable markets, and severe drought.
“Our farmers and ranchers produce the highest quality, lowest cost food supply in the world, and good farm and ranch policy benefits every American, every day,” he said. “With that in mind, as the Committee considers policies to address drought and increase landscape resilience, we need to ensure that producers are at the forefront of our efforts.”
The Senator has been pushing for more flexibility for grazing public lands during drought, as well as support for programs like Eastern North Dakota Alternate Water Supply Project, to help ensure reliable and secure water supply for agriculture and other water users.
Congress approved $10 billion in disaster assistance funding, with $750 million specifically for livestock producers, to assist producers with losses due to drought and other natural disasters. Lawmakers also approved additional flexibilities for the Risk Management Agency to ensure quick and fair adjustments and payments to producers and more flexibility for utilization of cover crops as forage.
Williston Basin School District 7 is challenging their schools and local business to show compassion and spread kindness all throughout Williston.
For the month of October the school district is participating in a Pay It Forward challenge, kicking it off on Oct 7 with some special gifts delivered to some local organizations. Mondak Animal Rescue and CHI St. Alexius Health Williston received a delivery of goodies on behalf of District 7, along with the challenge to Pay It Forward to three businesses each. All of the district’s schools will also receive gifts, along with the same challenge.
“October is all about kindness,” Dr. Victoria Arneson, Dist. 7’s Curriculum and Assessment Director told the Williston Herald. “Our SEL (social emotional learning) word of the month is compassion, and we wanted to make sure we are representing that all over the community and making sure that our students see that.”
Arneson said the challenge is for more than just those visited by the District, but really for everyone in the community.
“If you’re visiting Meg-A-Latte or Deja Brew, pay the person behind you. Pay It Forward wherever you can. We just want to make sure we’re a whole movement in Williston about being kind.” She said.
CHI received a basket full of treats, popcorn, candy, stationary and more while Mondak received a pile of goodies for the four-legged friends under their care. With the District’s recent reorganization, Arneson said many faculty members and students are feeling the stress of the change.
“We really want to show our appreciation and spread that joy,” Arneson commented. “We want to let them know that we support them, and that we’re doing everything we can to show that appreciation.”
Those who want to learn more about the project and find some ways that they can give back and Pay It Forward can visit the school district’s website at www.willistonschools.org/page/pay-it-forward.
The Williston High School Health Career class is hosting a fall blood drive at the school on Wednesday, Oct 13.
The Drive will be held in the gym at the high school from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The public is invited to come join the fun with a lifesaving blood donation. Taking just an hour from your day to save up to three lives in our community.
Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood, and 80 percent of the population of North Dakota will use blood at some point, but on average only two to three percent of residents take time to donate.
Call Patti Stewart to schedule an appointment today at 701-572-0967
North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms gave a broad overview of the state of oil and gas a week or so ago during the North Dakota Petroleum Conference Annual Meeting in Watford City. Today, in Williston, however, he’ll get into the nitty gritty with a county-by-county production outlook at the annual meeting for Western Dakota Energy Association.
Helms’ presentation will be among key highlights for the annual event, set to begin at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 13 at the Williston ARC and continue through Thursday, Oct. 14. Topics include the hydrogen economy, WISE roads, TENORM and much more. Several dignitaries are scheduled to speak including Sens. Rich Wardner, Dale Patten, and Brad Bekkedahl, along with Mayor Howard Klug and others.
For details on the WDEA conference, visit online at https://www.ndenergy.org/Events/WDEA-Annual-Meeting.
Helms, during his Williston Basin Petroleum Conference offered a few tantalizing tidbits on what Bakken companies have been doing to continue advancing production and well economics in the Bakken. Among these efforts are several projects that are centered right here in Williams County, as well as neighboring McKenzie County.
One oil company, for example, who Helms described as “aggressive” and “innovative,” is taking a field that they acquired with 2-mile laterals on 1280 spacing and converting to three-mile laterals on 1920 spacing.
The capital expense is 20 percent greater up front, but it is bumping estimated ultimate recoveries up 50 percent and rates of return 40 percent.
Similarly, in Mckenzie County in the Forman Butte area, another company is taking a similar approach. their capex calculations show a 13 percent bump for upfront costs with a 60 percent Estimated Ultimate Recovery bump. The internal rate of return wasn’t available, but Helms said he was told the wells are expected to pay out in half the usual time.
These techniques are making a large number of new and economic wells, Helms said, and pointed out on a map how striking it is to see the innovative way the new wells are being woven into the 1280 spacing units, with overlapping spacing units, to make this new approach work.
Another technique that Helms expects to really pump up well economics and boost capital investment in North Dakota is enhanced oil recovery.
This year Denbury Resources is expected to begin receiving carbon dioxide via pipeline from Wyoming. Next year, it will begin injections for what Helms said will be the world’s first and only carbon dioxide horizontal flood. This innovation is happening right here in North Dakota in Bowman County, Helms added, and it’s a game-changer.
“We are so excited about this and our partners that we’re working with at Denbury Resources see the Cedar Creek anticline as a game changer for their company,” Helms said. “It’s going to more than double the value of their company.”
In the Forman Butte field in McKenzie County, meanwhile, a water flood pilot is part of an effort to develop a statewide model for bringing conventional reservoirs back to life with water flooding and through carbon dioxide enhanced recovery.
These conventional reservoirs are the main resource Gov. Doug Burgum is referring to when he talks about carbon sequestration, so finding ways to revitalize these conventional wells is vital to ensuring the state has an economic way to sequester carbon dioxide.
Another advanced technique the state is looking at is a huff and puff project with Liberty Resources. The company is injecting rich gas and water simultaneously with a proprietary surfactant, with the goal of pushing much more rapid recoveries without breakthrough into offset wells.
In Williams County, meanwhile, a project that will work on an underdeveloped area in Williams County in what is considered Tier 2/Tier 3 is on the horizon. This, too, is a rich gas huff and puff type of injection. If successful, it will create 29 to 30 new spacing units in that under-developed area.
“So we are extremely, extremely excited about the enhanced oil recovery potential for North Dakota resources,” Helms said.
These innovative techniques can advance rig economics for the Bakken, Helms said, which are already among the most attractive in the nation.
Based on a comparison of rig economics basin by basin, Helms said a Bakken oil rig today, even without these new innovations, is already yielding an average 2,378 barrels of oil per day. That compares very favorably to the Permian, Helms added, whose rigs are yielding just 1,228 barrels of oil per day on average.
“It’s kind of a head scratcher, because a Bakken oil rig is 2 times the oil and 1.5 times the gas yield,” Helms added. “Capital should be flowing to North Dakota.”
Helms believes the uncertainty of federal leasing policies is driving some of the Permian activity, as companies to lock up federal leases with production now, with known rules, rather than later, with unknowns.
North Dakota, meanwhile, is continuing its lawsuit trying to force BLM to meaningfully restart lease sales. The federal moratorium on new oil and gas leases is costing private and state mineral owners millions of dollars, Helms said, and he believes it is also chasing at least some capital investments away.
Goodnight Midstream recently notified the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality of a produced water spill from a pipeline in Mountrail County on Oct. 7.
The incident occurred about 7 miles northwest of New Town. The cause of the spill is due to a third-party contractor striking a gathering line.
Goodnight Midstream estimates that approximately 285 barrels of produced water were discharged, with all but 30 barrels immediately recovered from the trench. Produced water is a by-product of oil production.
Personnel from Environmental Quality are inspecting the site and will continue to monitor the investigation and remediation.
The Williston Downtowners Association announced that Summer Nights on Main Event Coordinator Janessa Storlie will be staying on to help plan further events for the year.
Storlie has agreed to continue as Event Coordinator for the Fall and Winter, taking the the lead on the following upcoming events: Hallo-Week, Trail of Treats, Turkey Tom Thankful Thoughts, Small Business Saturday, Holiday Stroll, and more heading into 2022.
Storlie is a long-time Williston resident and graduated from Williston High in 2011. She has worked at many local businesses within Williston and has volunteered with the WDA, along with other non-profits in the area.
Storlie is a 2021 graduate of the Leadership Williston program, where she partnered with the Williston Convention and Visitors Bureau on her community project. Storlie’s project encourages area residents to travel the region and discover what there is to see and do in surrounding communities.
Storlie currently is a Real Estate Agent with the Proven Realty Team who is brokered by EXP, and spends her spare time with her family that lives in the area.