North Dakota may be on to something.
It’s looking to recover more oil from shale deposits by injecting natural gas underground, a process called “enhanced oil recovery.”
The North Dakota Industrial Commission led by Gov. Doug Burgum gave the go-ahead to the Hess Corp. to test the process in newer Bakken wells near Ross in Mountrail County. This would be a variation on what’s been done in old oil fields where carbon dioxide is injected. Hess, according to State Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms, will be using proprietary foam and natural gas instead of carbon dioxide.
“They think that by doing that, they’ll be able to build pressure more rapidly and force gas into these very small pore spaces in the Bakken,” Helms said.
The oil industry has long sought technology for enhanced oil recovery. If Hess succeeds, Helms believes the results will move “very quickly” throughout the industry.
Helms also said this new process “alone would take care of the flaring issue that we have in the state, if it comes about.” Oil companies resort to flaring to burn off excess natural gas at well sites. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “The volume of U.S. natural gas that was reported as vented and flared reached its highest average annual level of 1.28 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2018.” Two states, North Dakota and Texas, accounted for 82 percent of reported U.S. vented and flared natural gas.
Flaring hit an all-time high in North Dakota in summer 2019.
The Hess project is expected to take two years.