A company that is exploring the potential of a value-added natural gas project in North Dakota does have western North Dakota on its short list.

“It’s the only place they could be,” Lt. Governor Brent Sanford told the Williston Herald on Thursday. “They start looking at things like where do you have underground storage formation, where do you have the gas lines, where are they able to supply the gas, where do they have the most ethane produced.”

Between 25,000 and 50,000 barrels per day of ethane are produced at natural gas processing plants in Williams County near Tioga and Williston. Right now, that ethane is being shipped by pipeline to Canada presently, for plastics manufacturing.

That’s just the tip of what’s available gas-wise in the state.

“We know we have the gas,” Sanford said. “We’re flaring enough gas to power the whole state. The opportunity is here, and our gas is rich in ethane.”

The state produced 2.6 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas in February, according to the most recent figures from the North Dakota Division of Oil and Gas. About 20 percent of that was flared or burned off, due to a lack of infrastructure and processing capacity.

A petrochemical plant would not only change the dynamic when it comes to flaring, but for the economy as well, by capturing more of the wealth chain and keeping it in the state.

During the last legislative session, lawmakers approved a sales tax exemption for certain natural gas processing facilities, in hopes of attracting a plastics manufacturing plant.

Bakken Midstream told lawmakers during deliberations that it is considering a value-added natural gas infrastructure project in North Dakota.

The company was founded in 2019, according to its website.

“Bakken Midstream believes that (North Dakota) has the potential to become a world-class leader in value-added natural gas related products,” the company’s website states. “North Dakota has tremendous natural gas resources. What’s lacking is natural gas infrastructure, in particular infrastructure for value-added products.

“The mission of Bakken Midstream is to develop and own that infrastructure.”

Petrochemicals are not the only area where Sanford said he and the governor are trying to attract value-added enterprise to the state.

Another effort is a biodiesel refinery, which would process soybeans into soy oil to make fuel.

Had the soybean plant been operational sooner, that might have helped insulate the state from the negative effects of recent tariffs on soybeans.

In the longer term picture, having local enterprises like the soybean plant and the petrochemical plant will eventually help reduce freight and basis for the commodity in the future.

“That has to be a better economy,” Sanford said. “Processing soybeans, processing your gas here, the synergy of that is incredible.”

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