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North Dakota rig count drops below 100 for first time in 5 years

WILLISTON, N.D. – The number of drilling rigs operating in North Dakota dipped below 100 Wednesday for the first time in five years, but one company said the level of oil production has kept activity busy. The rig count on Wednesday was 98, with three more rigs scheduled to be idle soon, according to the Department of Mineral Resources. The last time the rig count was below 100 was in February 2010 when 93 rigs were active in the state, said spokeswoman Alison Ritter. North Dakota saw a record 218 drilling rigs in May of 2012.

Manufacturers trying to find their niche in oil industry

WILLISTON, N.D. – A product a North Dakota manufacturing company began making for one oil customer is now exported to several states. The success story of a product from Steffes Corp., with locations in Dickinson and Grand Forks, served as an example this week for regional manufacturers trying to break into the oil and gas business.

Stockholders approve Halliburton, Baker Hughes merger

Companies employ roughly 2,000 in North Dakota
DICKINSON, N.D. -- Stockholders from both companies gave the green light on Friday for Halliburton Co. to acquire Baker Hughes Inc. for about $35 billion. An "integration team" has been formed but it's too soon to tell still what the on-the-ground effects will be for the companies' employees in North Dakota. Both have operations offices just north of Dickinson for their oilfield services operations in the Bakken, including hydraulic fracturing.

Oil company requests to flare 140 wells

XTO Energy wants exceptions till 2016
BISMARCK, N.D. -- North Dakota’s new policy for exempting oil wells from gas-flaring rules will soon be put to the test as XTO Energy is requesting exceptions for 140 oil wells in Dunn and McKenzie counties. According to the request, the company says it has nowhere to take the gas because OneOK, a gas-processing company, was unable to secure an easement agreement for one final tract and can’t build a 20-mile pipeline expansion. The easements are complicated by the need to cross the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation or U.S. Forest Service land, according to documents filed with the case.

With bypasses open, officials work to make sure trucks use them

With bypasses open, officials work to make sure trucks use them

DICKINSON, N.D. -- As western North Dakota boomtowns work to catch up to growing truck traffic with bypasses around city centers, they're also working to make sure commercial truck drivers actually use the routes. Places like Watford City, a true headache to drive through before its bypass opened last November, have drastically cut in-town truck traffic because it's easier for the trucks just cut around town than it was before.

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Study highlights how oil money trickles out of North Dakota

WILLISTON, N.D. – While a new economic impact study shows that the oil and gas industry contributed $43 billion to North Dakota’s economy in 2013, it also highlights that several billion dollars left the state. About half of what the oil industry spends to drill and complete new wells in North Dakota -- about $15 billion in 2013 -- was not captured in the state’s economy, according to the study by North Dakota State University researchers. More than $7 billion generated from North Dakota oil and gas exploration in 2013 went to out-of-state companies that provided goods and services for drilling, fracking or well completion, the study says. A new initiative spearheaded by Williston Economic Development aims to capture more of those dollars in North Dakota.

N.D. officials clarify when oil companies are exempt from flaring rule

BISMARCK, N.D. -- They always said rules are made to be broken. North Dakota officials on Tuesday clarified when oil companies are exempt from anti-flaring gas capture rules. Qualifying as "extenuating circumstances," they said, were right-of-way delays, safety issues and system upgrades. Oil companies can also avoid production curtailments if flaring is caused by upgrades to improve gas capture in the future, like shutting down a gas plant in order to expand it. In the face of mounting criticism and concern of the runaway gas that companies were flaring as they raced to get more valuable oil, the North Dakota Industrial Commission last year adopted new goals for how much of the gas is captured.The industry captured 78 percent of gas in January, exceeding the 2015 goal of 77 percent. It must next capture 85 percent beginning Jan. 1, 2016, and 90 percent starting Oct. 1, 2020.

North Dakota officials may sue feds over 'overreaching' fracking rule

BISMARCK, N.D. -- The state of North Dakota may sue the federal government over its new rules regulating hydraulic fracturing on federal lands in the state. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, pumps pressured water, chemicals and sand into shale to release oil and gas. The rules -- the federal government's first regulation of fracking -- are unnecessary or inapplicable to North Dakota's geology or duplicate existing state rules, state Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms told the North Dakota Industrial Commission on Tuesday.

Feds release final fracking rule or 'More questions than answers'

With rules already in place, N.D. may enter into agreement
BISMARCK, N.D. -- The U.S. Department of the Interior ended more than four years of work on Friday after releasing the final rule for hydraulic fracturing on federal and Indian lands. For North Dakota, there's a lot to figure out in the 90 days before it goes into effect. Many officials were still reading through the 395-page document Friday to find areas of concern, or where the regulations differed from North Dakota's. North Dakota's Oil and Gas Division will likely enter into a memorandum of understanding for regulation, officials said, since it's one of the 15 states with existing fracking regulations and BLM lands.

Natural gas rules push, pull Bakken oil producers

Natural gas rules push, pull Bakken oil producers

Flaring, conditioning push against each other
BISMARCK, N.D. -- On one hand, Bakken oil producers are being told to quit flaring so much gas and, on the other, to start generating more gas. This “push in the opposite direction,” as described by Department of Mineral Resources director Lynn Helms, will officially start April 1 and probably last for another five years. The push comes from an inherent conflict in two orders by the State Industrial Commission. One order requires oil producers to gradually step down how much gas is flared at oil wells until no more than 10 percent of all gas is flared by 2020. At the same time, another order involves oil conditioning, which requires well operators to separate more gas from oil to make it safer for shipping.

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Growing steadily: Richardton undergoing big changes as oil’s sprawl drives development, growth

RICHARDTON, N.D. — Mayor Frank Kirschenheiter said Richardtonians look at the growth in their town a certain way. “We’d rather move forward than die,” he said. “... You go one direction in life, take your pick: If you’re not gonna go forward, you’re going backward.” That attitude is helping the city thrive as major companies stake out Richardton for various oilfield-related projects, and the city finishes up its new city hall. SBG Energy Services LLC will begin work this construction season on a $50 million rail terminal a half-mile east of town. The Grand Forks (N.D.) based company will offer rail transloading for the agriculture and oil industries,

Spill reported at site with history of spills

MAXBASS, N.D. – A company involved in a legal action with a Bottineau County landowner reported another spill Wednesday at the same saltwater disposal well with a history of spills. Petro Harvester reported that a piping connection leak caused 285 barrels, or nearly 12,000 gallons, of brine to release from the Peterson 2 saltwater disposal well, said the North Dakota Oil and Gas Division. The well, about six miles north of Maxbass, is on property owned by Daryl Peterson, who has long complained that brine spills involving that same location have not been properly cleaned up. “It’s frustrating and disappointing,” Derrick Braaten, a Bismarck attorney representing Peterson, said of the latest spill.

Pipeline company offers reassurances after recent spill

New project has upgraded materials, monitoring, Meadowlark Midstream says
WILLISTON, N.D. – The company responsible for the largest saltwater pipeline spill in North Dakota’s history answered questions Wednesday about lessons learned as it proposes to build new crude oil pipelines in the state. Meadowlark Midstream and Epping Transmission Co., both subsidiaries of Summit Midstream, presented to the North Dakota Public Service Commission plans for a 14-mile transmission pipeline in Williams County.

Oil storage may hit critical in two months

BISMARCK, N.D. -- Based upon the dwindling number of operational rigs, North Dakota oil workers could face 1,000 to 1,200 more layoffs as a national storage shortage threatens an already low crude oil price, according to North Dakota's top oil regulator. “I think we’ve seen the worst of it,” Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources, said of layoffs.

Unlike in other oil-producing states, ND experiences little or no seismic activity

FARGO, N.D. -- Swarms of earthquakes have been rattling Oklahoma, Texas and other central states with a history of little or no seismic activity. The recent quakes, according to scientists, may be the fault of deep underground injections of wastewater left over from fracking. But in North Dakota, where wastewater injection wells are abundant, the ground has remained largely unshaken. So why are other oil-producing regions significantly more wobbly?

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