Hess starting up North Dakota natgas plant, may boost Bakken output

Reuters

NEW YORK, March 14 (Reuters) - Hess Corp will begin selling natural gas from its Tioga, North Dakota, plant this month, firing up the station weeks after severe weather delayed its expansion, the company said Friday.

The plant's start-up may help boost oil production from the prolific Bakken shale after about 100 producing wells had to be shut earlier this year to minimize flaring due to the delays, the state Industrial Commission said this week.

"Due to the unusually harsh winter weather, we're slightly behind our initial plans, but we expect to start selling residue gas this month," Hess spokesman John Roper said.

The plant will be able to process 250 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) when it starts operating, nearly twice as much as its initial design. The station had been shut since late last year as Hess worked on the expansion.

North Dakota flares nearly 36 percent of the natural gas it produces in the absence of adequate processing capacity and infrastructure to move the gas to market.

The state produced more than 1 billion cubic feet of gas a day in January, according to data from regulators.

The recent upgrade to the Tioga plant includes additions to ethane recovery, full fractionation and sales of natural gas liquids, according to Hess filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Hess had previously announced plans to begin selling gas from the Tioga plant in late February and start extracting and selling natural gas liquids in March.

North Dakota's oil production rose by about 6,500 barrels per day to about 935,000 bpd in January, Department of Mineral Resources data showed on Thursday. Output in December had dropped by 50,000 bpd from the month before.

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